Where to purchase a small coffee tree in Toronto

(Question)

Looking to purchase a small coffee tree to play with in the GTA.   Any thoughts?

(Answer)

The Kentucky Coffee tree, Gymnocladus dioicus, is native to southern Ontario and is on the threatened list for our area.  There are some beautiful examples of the tree in Toronto.  The city has planted them on some streets and the Toronto Botanical Gardens and Mount Pleasant Cemetery have very large mature specimens.  They are easy to spot in winter as the seed pods do not fall off until the spring.

The coffee tree is a personal favorite and certainly fun to grow.  The tree is unusual with its giant double compound leaves.  The seed pods are fairly large and oval.  It has very hard seeds enveloped in a thick matrix.  It is these seeds that gave the coffee tree its name, as it was used as a very poor substitute for coffee during the US Civil War.  The seeds can be sprouted and planted but it does take some work to get through the hard seed coat.

Finding a coffee tree can be difficult.  Many large nurseries carry them, but you may need to order in advance and have one brought in.  I have also found that nurseries may only bring in a couple of plants each year and they are snapped up by eager gardeners very early in the season.

Another source of native trees is through LEAF – an organization that is working to reforest the city through backyard programs.  The Evergreen Brickworks is also working to reforest the GTA with many native trees, some which are more difficult to find.  Both Leaf and Evergreen are good sources of information on native plants and also the best planting and maintenance practices.

I am attaching some links to help you get started with your search.  Good luck and have fun with your new trees.

https://www.yourleaf.org/

https://www.evergreen.ca/get-involved/evergreen-brick-works/whats-here/evergreen-garden-market/

https://www.ontario.ca/page/kentucky-coffee-tree-species-risk

https://www.arborday.org/trees/planting/containerized.cfm