Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Coffeetree

Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Coffeetree

Article excerpt

This double-trunked national champion won't produce a "premium blend," but it will give you an extract that'll poison flies.

When Daniel Boone convinced the first pioneers to follow his Wilderness Trail into Kentucky, he neglected to tell them there wouldn't be any coffee. So for a while they had to settle for a bitter brew made from the seeds of a tree they named--with more nostalgia than conviction--the Kentucy coffeetree. (Scientists call it Gymnocladus dioicus.) Two centuries later, Kentucky lawmakers sentimental over this bit of their heritage designated the species as the state tree.

Today the Bluegrass State exports no "pioneer blend" coffee substitute, but it has produced one of the country's largest specimens of Kentucky coffeetree. (Its co-champ grows, perhaps, oddly, in Van Buren County, Michigan.) Down the road from West Liberty, Kentucky (which is a good distance east of Liberty), past Index and Grassy Creek, the champion grows on the tobacco and cattle farm of Bert and Barbara Lawson. …

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