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The biggest coffeetree.

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. Their son James, along with State Forester Elaine Childers, nominated the tree for AFA's National Register of Big Trees in 1985.

No one knows exactly how old the champ is, but 92-year-old Lilly McGuire, a local resident, remembers seeing it 81 years ago when it was already one foot in diameter.

In the 16 years the Lawsons have lived in the shade of its large lacy leaves, the tree's two trunks have spread one foot apart, adding to its girth but threatening someday to block the road it overhangs. Rather than accept offers to trim it back, Lawson plans to guy the trunks together to fend off challengers to its champion status.

The Lawsons have yet to make coffee from their nobletree--it's enough for them to know that people used to poison flies with an extract from the leaves. Instead, they're quite satisfied to enjoy the aesthetic qualifies of their most distinguished neighbor.
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Title Annotation:Kentucky coffeetree
Author:Bronaugh, Whit
Publication:American Forests
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:314
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