Spring Botany Study, Part 6: Kentucky Coffeetree Rediscovery

With Albuquerque temperatures climbing rapidly, Spring 2022 is almost a memory ….. almost.

As luck would have it, I found myself once again in northABQ with a bit of quality time on my hands, so Luna and I set off on the 2 mile round-trip walk to revisit my beloved Kentucky Coffeetrees. It was a rediscovery of sorts and a surprise to find the 2 female trees had progressed way beyond blooming! Fully leafed out, they were showing off newly developing, soft as suede seed pods!

Darn! Missed seeing the flowers, but Wow! What a sight to see these two ladies and the 6 male trees healthy and growing like gangbusters!

Caught without my sketchbook (shame on me), I took lots of photos of the trees, the bark on the trunks, leaves and fruit. Then, not thinking one of the female trees would mind, I popped off a 14“ long bipinnate compound leaf and a pair of new seed pods.

What a beautiful canopy the Kentucky Coffeetree forms. This is one of the 2 female trees.


Very rough-textured bark on this tree.

Back at home with my Coffeetree treasures, I was prepared to begin my sketch. With a leaf as large as this (Yes! That entire bushel of green is just one giant leaf), the sketch deserved a full two-page spread.

My Coffeetree treasures …… one giant bipinately compound leaf, 2 new seed pods, and a collection of last year’s mature seeds that had fallen on the ground.

Here’s my work-in-progress (WIP) photos from pencil sketch to watercolor pencil work. What may seem like a daunting task, drawing and painting all 90 leaflets (pinnules) turned out to be quite meditative. Over the several days it took me to complete the work, I also spent time researching the characteristics of compound leaves. Fascinating, really!

So what to do with all that ”negative” space on the layout? Dissect one of the seed pods, take a peek inside, and sketch! Now, before making the first cut, I remembered the seeds and the pod filling are toxic, so putting on a pair of surgical gloves was in order. Then I sharpened my knife and delicately made an incision along the edge seam that normally splits when the pod is mature.

Expecting to have a gooey sweet sticky lime green substance ooze from the cut, I was surprised to see the pod’s filling to resemble cold lime green cream cheese! Apparently the immature seeds were not ready for the cushion of protectively moist ooze! Very interesting! Pondering this discovery, I began my sketch!

Then it was only a matter of adding all the details from my ponderings and research to complete my journal pages!

What fun this was to create!

Close up of the left side of my 2-page spread showing detail of the split seed pod.


Close up of the right side of my 2-page spread


My final! TaDa!

Thanks for following my stories about the Kentucky Coffeetree!

2 Comments

  1. sgoodman56 says:

    How interesting to have male and female trees!
    I have a new robin couple nesting in the jasmine vine and a wren family in the rose bush! Although the cardinal couple took the babies away, they are still close by. My bluebirds are still in their house, but because Daniel has that room now, I can’t watch them all day like I had been. A very active season here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ash, juniper, honey locust, willow, poplar, ginkgo and holly are more examples of dioecious trees (trees that produce single sex flowers). You might have a few of those species in the forest near you? What I found with the coffeetree is the female trees look different than the male trees; the male trees are much more lush. Could be the location tho? Sounds like you are having a good birding season! We are too. The house finches especially did great this year. So many chicks at the feeders, and they are discovering the importance of “pecking” ….. very funny to watch! My favorite is the spotted towhee. I’m going to post a page of my sketches of George. A youngster who hops around our outside window ledges and loves to drive the cats crazy. Then he comes to one of my studio windows. He’s also a bully and think he owns the water bowl. Oh George, the curious voyeur! Thanks for the comments Susan!

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