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Psychotria nervosa Wild Coffee

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


Psychotria nervosa is a Florida native shrub that gets its common name from the small, red, ellipsoid fruit it produces. Fruit resembles the true coffee bean. The leaves of this plant are generally 6 inches long and are narrowly obovate in shape. These glossy green leaves are puckered with impressed veins on the upper surfaces of the leaf blades, and there is pubescence along the veins on the leaf undersides. The shiny, dark green foliage gives a rich texture to any landscape. The small, white inflorescence occurs terminally on the branchlets during the warm months of the year. Each flower is a sessile or stalked, open, short cyme.

Full Form - Psychotria nervosa: Wild Coffee
Figure 1. Full Form - Psychotria nervosa: Wild coffee.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Leaf and Flower - Psychotria nervosa: Wild Coffee
Figure 2. Leaf and Flower - Psychotria nervosa: Wild coffee.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Fruit - Psychotria nervosa: Wild Coffee
Figure 3. Fruit - Psychotria nervosa: Wild coffee.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Psychotria nervosa

Pronunciation: sye-koe-TREE-yuh ner-VOE-suh

Common name(s): wild coffee, Seminole balsamo

Family: Rubiaceae

Plant type: shrub

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 4)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year-round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: specimen; hedge; espalier; foundation; border; mass planting

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 4. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 4 to 10 feet

Spread: 4 to 8 feet

Plant habit: round

Plant density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white

Flower characteristic: spring flowering; summer flowering


Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit cover: fleshy

Fruit color: red

Fruit characteristic: attracts birds

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy

Current year stem/twig color: green

Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun; plant grows in the shade

Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: moderate

Soil salt tolerances: poor

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

This 4 to 10 foot tall plant may be used in the landscape as a specimen or foundation plant and is very effective when planted in mass. It stays relatively small in the sun and takes to clipping quite nicely. It makes a nice base or background plant for a shrub border. Birds and other wildlife are often associated with this plant for the fruit it produces.

Wild coffee is a moderately drought tolerant plant that will perform well in a partial shade or full shade location in the landscape. Plants in the full sun often have chlorotic foliage. A plant in the full shade can grow into a small tree with an open canopy. It is very cold tender and should be protected if grown north of hardiness zone 10b. This plant will grow on any well-drained soil.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Publication #FPS494

Release Date:January 18, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS494, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman
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