Win a bunch of tools from Truly Garden and Loma Creek! this week in the Gear forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
  • Dave Burton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Steve Thorn
  • Eric Hanson

Kentucky Coffee Trees as Overstory

 
gardener
Posts: 2519
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
186
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been thinking about overstory trees for my tiny suburban lot.
It seems I get more sun than I thought, so some dappled shade might  be a welcome addition.
The locusts have that, but the edible one brings thorny seedlings and the other one(probably) isn't edible.
While they do slower growth and lower nitrogen fixing,  
Kentucky Coffee Trees have pods with seeds and pulp that are very toxic until have been roasted hours.
This is actually a feature, not a bug, as it preserves the harvest for creatures that cook,  like me.
We wont be able to reach the tops of our overstory trees without a lot of work,so we will wait for the pods to fall on their own,  knowing they are safe from squirrels and such.

The only thing that really makes me lean towards locust trees instead is the ease of propagation and the speedy growth.
Those traits make me think I should also plant a honey locust and a black locust, but with the with the aim of pollarding them for nursery stock.

The other thing I like about the tree is the weirdness.
It's fairly rare these days,  the thought being that it originally evolved alongside megafauna with the ability to digest the otherwise toxic pulp, but not the seeds.
The idea of humans taking the place of the missing megafauna appeals to me.
Currently,  water seems to be the method seed dispersal.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11515
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
798
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you pollard the Honey Locust you won't need to worry about seedlings.

If you were in a warmer climate I would recommend the wonderful Moringa, which is doing spectacularly well for me.  But I also like the Honey Locust, even though it isn't a good food source (ours is several years old and has barely made any pods).

I too enjoy the idea of growing plants which evolved with the megafauna.  I grow Devil's Claw partly for that reason, and I want to grow Osage Orange also. Megafauna = coolness factor.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2519
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
186
forest garden trees urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow!
Devils claw is crazy cool!
220px-Harpagophytum_procumbens_MHNT.BOT.2005.0.1243.jpg
[Thumbnail for 220px-Harpagophytum_procumbens_MHNT.BOT.2005.0.1243.jpg]
I want this on my christmass tree!
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2519
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
186
forest garden trees urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I want to plant some morninga in containers, overwinter it inside.
Do they really get tall enough for canopy trees?
 
gardener
Posts: 2831
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
628
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The honey locust and coffee tree are both native where I am, but the coffee tree is pretty rare.  I've got some seeds kicking around somewhere if you need some, and I have know where there's a tree I can visit for more.  It's not super close to home, but it's within 30 minutes of my house on a route that I usually drive at least once each year when the pods are on the tree.

That said, I don't find the honey locusts edible.  I may have an allergy to the pod goop -- I get all the symptoms of incipient anaphylactic shock if I just put a tiny bit in my mouth.  Tingling lips, numbness in the face, wheezing, shortness of breath...  After two widely spaced attempts, I don't taste my honey locust pods any more.  Even just breathing the dust while breaking up dried pods for seed can trigger respiratory distress for me.  I've never heard of anybody else having this issue, so I assume it's a personal peculiarity.  

What lore do you know about uses for the Kentucky Coffee Trees?  I know that the seeds can be roasted and ground for a very inferior hot black drink, hence the name, but nobody who has tried it reports getting much pleasure or any food value out of it; supposedly it's like any of a dozen things that can be roasted and turned into hot black drink.  I haven't bothered to try it myself; without caffeine, what's the point to hot black drink?  Anyway, I don't know of any other uses for the Kentucky Coffee Trees.  I love them but I would love them more if I knew of something they were good for.  
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2519
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
186
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My favorite source for info on alternative edibles, Eat the Weeds, is silent on the subject.

PFAF
says this:

Seedpod - raw or cooked. The roasted seeds can be eaten like sweet chestnuts[257]. The pulp is sweet[2, 82]. A flavour like caramel[222]. The pods are up to 25cm long and 5cm wide[229]. The roasted seed is a caffeine-free coffee substitute[2, 11, 46, 95, 213]. A bitter flavour[226]. Thorough roasting for at least 3 hours at 150°c is necessary in order to destroy the poisonous hydrocyanic acid that is found in the seed[183]. Seed - roasted and eaten like a nut[161, 213, 226]. The seed contains toxic substances, see notes above.




 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 11515
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
798
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote:Wow!
Devils claw is crazy cool!



I forgot to say which Devil's Claw - Proboscidea louisianica. This one is an annual, not a tree. Supposedly the huge claw fruits evolved to grab the legs of megafauna.  Plus it is edible and a good trap crop for Tomato Hornworms.  Also has pretty flowers.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 11515
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
798
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote: I want to plant some morninga in containers, overwinter it inside.
Do they really get tall enough for canopy trees?



In a warm climate they grow to 40 feet.  I'm growing them as a "canopy" for my kitchen garden to provide filtered shade during our hot summers.  This first year from seed they have exceeded seven feet.  I pollarded them at this height but they insist on growing taller!  The challenge will be to get them through the winter.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3264
Location: Toronto, Ontario
405
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It certainly is unique. I was at African Lion Safari recently with family, among whom was a forester. We identified a Kentucky Coffee Tree at the same time entering the elephant portion of the facility, which I suppose is part of the voluntary forage of the Asian Elephants they keep and breed there (I didn't know this, but they are apparently the top breeding facility in North America for them).

And as a member of the family Fabaceae, they are nitrogen-fixing bacteria hosts. I love the idea of crop food that needs processing before being palatable, even to animals. It brings to mind the saponin coating that quinoa has, but on steroids.

And as to megafaunal food, we're growing avocado trees indoors in Ontario, hoping for an eventual avocado yield.

As to kentucky coffee trees as an overstory, my question would be the context. How tall do you want your overstory? They can grow to something like 21 metres, so taller than, say, avocado trees, on average. Castanea dentata, the American Chestnut, however, historically reached 30 metres.

I would choose such a tree for my overstory, and use the nitrogen-fixing bacteria hosts as sub-canopy fill, with shade-loving hazel and mulberry beneath.

-CK

EDIT: There is some evidence that the American Chestnut grew to 60 metres before european settlement and chestnut blight. Now that would be an overstory!
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2831
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
628
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

And as a member of the family Fabaceae, they are nitrogen-fixing bacteria hosts.



I am on my phone so can’t easily find links at the moment, but we have endless threads on this and they boil down to “It’s complicated but this is not a safe assumption.”  Short version is that many of these tree species have NOT been found to host nodulating nitrogen-fixing bacteria in practice; there is debate about whether some species may fix nitrogen by another method or if they do not do it at all.

Sorry, this is one of those permaculture bits of received wisdom that triggers my knee jerk every time it’s repeated too certainly. My property is lousy with Fabaceae tree species and not a damn one of them is a demonstrated nitrogen fixer, so it drives me nuts.

Back on topic, that PFAF quote matches up pretty closely with what my local wildcrafting instructor said, except she didn’t mention the possibility of EATING the roasted seeds like nuts. They are big enough I would expect an ethnographic tradition of it if there were any nutrition to be had. And may there is/was one that my Googles didn’t find; there’s much the bros in Cali cannot see and have never been told. Plus, sadly, there were people whose lore just didn’t make it.

Somehow, I got it in my head that the detoxify-roast was to a point of near carbonization. But I couldn’t make the class where my wildcrafting instructor demonstrated, and she’s no longer with us, dammit. Some of these things, we should make the time because we WILL NOT get a second chance. Dammit.
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi everyone. I have about 20 of these trees that have been started from seed. They are all now between 3 and 4 feet tall and will soon need to be transplanted to their permanent location.
Does anyone know if these trees will tolerate being in standing water for an extended amount of time? Thanks in advance for any advice.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 2831
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
628
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi, I don’t know, but I have some doubts. The half dozen trees I have seen in the wild were in reasonably well drained places ... fencelines and such. Possible brief seasonal flooding, but not wet foot trees like sycamore or willow or even persimmon.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 3264
Location: Toronto, Ontario
405
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dan Boone wrote:

And as a member of the family Fabaceae, they are nitrogen-fixing bacteria hosts.



I am on my phone so can’t easily find links at the moment, but we have endless threads on this and they boil down to “It’s complicated but this is not a safe assumption.”  Short version is that many of these tree species have NOT been found to host nodulating nitrogen-fixing bacteria in practice; there is debate about whether some species may fix nitrogen by another method or if they do not do it at all.

Sorry, this is one of those permaculture bits of received wisdom that triggers my knee jerk every time it’s repeated too certainly. My property is lousy with Fabaceae tree species and not a damn one of them is a demonstrated nitrogen fixer, so it drives me nuts.



Perhaps not alive, and perhaps not in anything but their dropped biomass, but honestly, if they only provided the biomass and had the benefit of growing in poor soil, I still count it as a win. But if it's dropping biomass, is it not contributing nitrogen? Is it not taking it from the air if it's not present in the soil, and does it not end up in the soil?

I get the feeling that a lot of these conclusive tests focus too hard on specific processes that probably don't apply in every situation, or absent the presence of certain fungal actors. It will be interesting to see what happens when more holistic approaches are taken to these questions, but I bet there are buttloads of interactions that we don't have a clue about, or whose evidence is seen so indirectly as to seem ambiguously sourced.

In any case, that's why we stack functions. If a tree pollards or coppices well, burns a treat, and has antifungal properties that make it a superior outdoor lumber, and can also be used as animal feed, any benefit of its biology on surrounding plants is a happy but negligible by-product, probably less significant than its biomass contributions. And if it seems to grow out of bare rock or concrete without any assistance, where else would it be getting its nitrogen from?

-CK
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 11515
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
798
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"The Kentucky coffeetree belongs to the pea or legume family. Although many members of the legume family have an association with a bacterium that converts gaseous nitrogen into a usable form, the Kentucky coffeetree cannot "fix" nitrogen.
Although widely distributed, this tree is a rare forest tree and occurs in scattered populations. The national champion Kentucky coffeetree, 97 feet tall, is in Maryland."

http://www.uky.edu/hort/Kentucky-Coffeetree
 
pollinator
Posts: 1036
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
216
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm just starting them this year. They grow really fast, about 2' from seed this spring so far, they should harden at that height. I'm expecting that they will have a similar habit to the honeylocust. This is true for height and also sort of applies to the place they will take in the silvopasture- dappled shade and small nutritious leaves with lots of flowers. The one thing I don't know yet is whether the seeds and pods will be good fodder, I'm planning on using the honeylocust for winter chicken and pig forage since the ones I am growing are supposed to have late and long-held pods.

Despite the questions, they seem like a good second species along with the honeylocust. The other species I am growing is smaller but has some awesome possibilities (yellowhorn) but doesn't fix nitrogen. Same small leaves that shouldn't kill the forage grasses. It's been oddly hard to get mimosa growing here (go figure) but that is another similar tree that has an advantage in summer blossoms when not much else is there.

It's funny, there's a thread about grapes on trees, and each one of the n-fixers gets a grape buddy in year 2 (they get a vine, but the grapes seem to be the most promising- the kiwi just get too big too fast since the deer are not involved). The deer prune the grapes the first couple years and then year three they form one long vine I can get up above their height and stake out midway to the next tree (the spacing is 30-40'). Hopefully this will be workable and I will put up a post devoted to it if I pull it off.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 3264
Location: Toronto, Ontario
405
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

The abovementioned study wrote:Because leaves of this tree are late to emerge and early to fall, the Kentucky coffeetree is without leaves, or naked, much of the year. Kentucky coffeetree has the largest leaves of our woodland trees. The bark is rough and furrowed and the older branches terminate in a flower cluster, forcing new branches to form in a "zig-zag" pattern. Kentucky coffeetree has reasonably strong wood and will tolerate some ice without losing branches.



To another point, the late to leaf, early to fall nature of its foliage might make it a niche tree, really great for providing dappled shade only at the height of the season, but allowing relatively generous amounts of light through in the spring and fall, corresponding to seasonally lower light levels.

As a corollary, it might prove unsuitable anywhere you actually need that shade through the spring and fall.

-CK
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 1036
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
216
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tyler Ludens wrote: "The Kentucky coffeetree belongs to the pea or legume family. Although many members of the legume family have an association with a bacterium that converts gaseous nitrogen into a usable form, the Kentucky coffeetree cannot "fix" nitrogen.
Although widely distributed, this tree is a rare forest tree and occurs in scattered populations. The national champion Kentucky coffeetree, 97 feet tall, is in Maryland."

http://www.uky.edu/hort/Kentucky-Coffeetree



Tyler, my understanding is that many of the plants in fabacea don't nodulate, but may fix nitrogen through frankia or other species. There have been several discussions about the maddening nature of proving a symbiotic role in trees. I kind of hedge on whether they are fixers or not becuase I have clovers and ground-level stuff that can pick up that role, and mulberries which are really good at recycling any nitrogen that is available due to their high-protein foliage. It will be fun to see if the clovers grow under the coffee tree -indicating a lower nitrogen level, or if it will be nitrogen scavengers. It is further confounded in a silvopasture situation becasue the hope is the animals spread the goodies through the whole paddock, so I may not even get an answer. I think you groove on osage orange, and I am devoting a whole section to growing those pretty close together to try to get a bunch of straight lumber trunks. The wait is killing me!
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2519
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
186
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love that so many permies are interested in this tree!
I must admit,  the food value is looking more and more doubtful.
It seems to have multiple chemical defenses.

"The fruit is high in saponins and is used as a soap[200]. The leaves are used as a fly poison[222]. Trees are planted on the spoil tips of mines to stabilize and reclaim the soil[200]. Wood - coarse-grained, heavy though not hard, strong, very durable in contact with the soil, finishes to a fine lustre. A handsome wood, it weighs 43lb per cubic foot and is used for cabinet work, furniture, construction, fencing etc[46, 61, 82, 171, 229, 235]."

Reports on the test of the pulp vary greatly,from foul and bitter to  caramel sweetness.
I wonder how well the leaves will compost,  if the fresh leaves kill flies.
Any reports on that?
I like the projected height OK,  and I love that the leaves only show up during the hottest times.
My experience with mimosa suggests that these   compound leaved trees that leaf out late are pretty great nurses for understory.
My yarden lot is filled with the debris of the house that once stood there, so almost any plant that grows is give at least a chance.
The mulberries are struggling, the box elder is thriving, go figure.
I am wondering if using the pods to wash cloths with might not be ideal.
I have been running this summers used wash water through a nacent vermiculture / willow filter.
The hydrocyanic acid in the seeds might made this a bad idea.

 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 3264
Location: Toronto, Ontario
405
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The pod and seed toxicity have me thinking that perhaps some time in a solar dryer might be a good idea, if the temperatures involved were sufficient to break down the toxins. The result could then be ground and added to feed or perhaps silage.

Honestly, I think that if I was living in close proximity to active, or more likely and relevant, historically heavy mining activities, I would probably locate those places via soil test, and use those most contaminated with heavy metals as fuel, timber, and fibre lots, with species like kentucky coffeetree doing multiple duties in soil stabilisation and nursery tree functions, while growing a useful furniture or outdoor use wood crop all its own.

I was actually wondering if something like bison, who are essentially pleistocene leftovers, would have the physiological capability to make use of kentucky coffeetree pods and leaves. If not, I am sure that when we finally engineer the Mammophant, the Kentucky coffeetree will make up some of the pleistocene-holdover savannah mix, along with avocados, that offer variety and concentrated nutrition for giant browsers.

-CK
 
pollinator
Posts: 235
Location: East tn
56
hugelkultur foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote:I love that so many permies are interested in this tree!
I must admit,  the food value is looking more and more doubtful.
It seems to have multiple chemical defenses.

"The fruit is high in saponins and is used as a soap[200]. The leaves are used as a fly poison[222]. Trees are planted on the spoil tips of mines to stabilize and reclaim the soil[200]. Wood - coarse-grained, heavy though not hard, strong, very durable in contact with the soil, finishes to a fine lustre. A handsome wood, it weighs 43lb per cubic foot and is used for cabinet work, furniture, construction, fencing etc[46, 61, 82, 171, 229, 235]."


Saponins often have medicinal value. See English ivy research as an example.

Have you considered persimmon as overstory? The roasted seeds make a very tasty drink although prevlant wisdom says limit your intake.
 
pollinator
Posts: 286
Location: Ozarks
66
homeschooling goat dog tiny house chicken cooking building solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
https://mdc12.mdc.mo.gov/Applications/TreeSeedling/?page=3

10 for $9.00 and I'm pretty sure they'll ship out of state.

Ordering starts Sept 1st and delivery in early Spring. They're two year old bare root seedlings
 
get schwifty. tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!