3. Kentucky Coffee Tree
Location: 2115 Regis Drive
Nominator: Martha Brashear
This 50-year old Kentucky coffee tree is the godfather of 200,000 Espresso™ Kentucky coffee trees planted worldwide. It was selected because it was was tough, heat and drought tolerant, tolerant of clay soils, relatively fast-growing with a large, vase-shaped crown, and a male tree that didn’t produce the large banana peel-like pods that litter the crown and ground below.
In the 1950s and 60s, members of the Davis Tree Commission, including Dr. Richard Harris and Dr. Phil Barker, worked with the city to plant and evaluate the performance of different species of trees along new streets in east Davis. Their goal was to diversify the mix of species with trees proven to be well-adapted to local conditions.About 20 Kentucky coffee trees were planted along Regis Drive in the late 1960’s.
During his annual observations US Forest Service research horticulturist Dr. Barker saw that the tree in front of the Brashear’s home (2115 Regis) stood out as exceptional. In 1986 Dr. Barker invited Horticulturist Keith Warren of J. Frank Schmidt Nursery in Oregon to see the tree. Martha Brashear, who nominated the tree, remembers her husband and others measuring and studying the tree that by now shaded and cooled their home. It was pronounced a favorite because it had all of the desirable features of the species without the troublesome traits. It was tough, heat and drought tolerant, tolerant of clay soils, and relatively fast-growing with a large, vase-shaped crown. It was a male tree, so seeds were not produced, and the large banana peel-like pods didn’t litter the crown and ground below.Barker sent cuttings to Warren for propagation and evaluation. Over the next decade, the nursery struggled to find an effective way to propagate clones genetically identical to this parent tree.
Eventually they refined their techniques, named and trademarked it as ‘Espresso-JFS’, and offered the new tree in their 1994 catalog. Despite ongoing production challenges, by 2010 they were steadily producing trees for sale and began to highlight the handsome tree on Regis Drive in their marketing materials.
Today, Espresso™ Kentucky coffee tree is the most popular and widely planted coffee tree cultivar in the country. The iconic tree on Regis Dr. stands 55-ft tall with a girth of 7 ft. It is truly one of Davis’s Great Trees. Planted 50 years ago as an experiment, it is the progenitor of thousands of Espresso™ Kentucky coffee trees planted annually worldwide.