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The Tree
This is what the tree seedlings look like:


The seeds
This is what the seeds and the pods look like:

Kentucky Coffeetree pod and seeds

How to spot the trees and seeds
The best time to look is in the fall, when the seed pods are visible. The pods often hang on until late winter or early spring; at one of my collection sites I found some pods just a few weeks ago (in June). Note that animals will get to the pods as soon as they fall. I have also had mixed luck with germinating seeds that have been on the ground and exposed for a while. 
Where to find them in Wilmington
I have left these descriptions vague so you will have the fun of finding the trees for yourself.

In Wilmington proper there is one good place to see a coffeetree. If you stand at the front of Mt. Salem church you can see a orange/pink stucco home across the cemetery. From the corner of that house you can see the tree. There is also a large specimen at Bellevue State Park, visible from in front of the mansion. There is also a small grove of trees next to the mansion.  If you are in Historic New Castle, just wander around the main square; there is a large tree behind a house which drops a lot of pods in the late fall.
How to grow the seeds:
These seeds are very easy to grow. The pods should be collected in the fall, before they have been on the ground for too long. I just hold the pods at ambient temperature over the winter, in my unheated warehouse space. I have read that the seeds can remain viable for up to 10 years. Before planting you must  scarify the tough seed coat (in nature this is usually done by passing through an animal). I have found two good methods for doing this. The first is to use a hacksaw on the seed, scoring it about 1/16" - 1/8" deep, just enough to see a color change in the seed coat. I tried this method for the first time this year, and it seems to work well. The other method is just to crack the seeds in a vise; place the seed in the vise with the widest side parallel to the floor, then tighten the vise slowly until the seed pops. 

The seeds should be planted about 1/2" deep in potting soil when the weather begins to get warm, around the middle of April. If you want to start earlier you can use a warm space and a grow light, but I prefer to use natural conditions. The seeds usually germinate in about 2 weeks; I let them grow in their original space for a month before transplanting to a larger pot.

Last year I let the trees winter over in their pots before planting in the spring, but this year (2003) I planted some in the fall before they dropped their leaves. 

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Last updated: 01/23/2008 04:38:04 PM