Usually a short-trunked tree with narrow, open crown of coarse branches and very large, twice-compound leaves. When crowded by other trees, this species grows tall and slender. If more open-grown, it becomes a round-topped tree. Its unique bark is dark brown and roughened with scale-like ridges in distinct patterns. It leafs out late in spring. The large, twice-compound leaves gives the foliage a tropical look. Greenish-white flowers are held in terminal clusters, and the fruit is a purplish-brown pod that remains into winter. Fall foliage is yellow-green. Kentucky coffeetree grows 75-100 ft. tall.
This species has by far the largest leaves of any native tree in Canada. It is often used in landscaping well beyond its natural range because it transplants easily and can tolerate urban conditions (Kershaw). The roasted seeds were once used as a coffee substitute; raw seeds, however, are poisonous. The reddish-brown wood makes attractive cabinets, and the fruit pulp has been used in home remedies. Scattered or rare in the wild, this species is planted an an ornamental for the very large leaves and for the stout twigs, which are bare except in summer. As the leaves develop late in spring and shed early, the leafless trees often appear to be dead. The generic name, from Greek, means naked branch. Its native range comprises much of eastern North America, from Georgia in the southeast to Oklahoma in the west, north to southwestern Ontario, where it is listed as a threatened species by Canadas Species at Risk Act (SARA). It apparently becomes less common in the northern reaches of its range, as it is also listed as Endangered in the state of New York, though populations appear safe in the remainder of its US range.
Bicolored honey locust moth
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Bisected honey locust moth|
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