Wild Edible Plants: Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum)

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum)Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum), also known as feverwort, late horse gentian, broad tinker’s weed. Protected in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The fruit can be dried, roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute.

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) is a 2′ to 4′ tall woodland wildflower. It is a coarse plant with multiple erect stems that bear flowers from the upper leaf axils. These flowers are clustered around the stem, reddish and tubular. They give way to showy orange berry-like drupes, each containing 3 oblong nutlets.

Barton, a distinguished botanist of Philadelphia a century and more ago, wrote: “I learned from the late Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, that the dried and toasted berries of this plant, were considered by some of the Germans of Lancaster County, as an excellent substitute for coffee, when prepared in the same way. Hence the name of wild coffee, by which he informed me it was sometimes known.”

Edible Parts

  • Seeds / Berries


The dried and roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute. Opinions on the taste vary wildly.

Medicine Uses

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Medicinal UsesA decoration of the leaves is diaphoretic. It is used in the treatment of fever and ague. The roots are diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, pectoral and stomachic. In large doses they are emetic and cathartic. An infusion of the root has been used to treat severe colds, pneumonia, irregular or profuse menses, painful urination, stomach problems and constipation. The infusion has also been used as an aid to putting on weight for both adults and babies. A poultice of the roots is applied to snakebites, sores and felons. An infusion of the plant has been used for soaking sore feet. An ooze from the plant has been used as a wash for swollen legs. The rhizome contains an alkaloid and has been used as a cathartic.

Where Does Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Grow?

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Growing Area

How To Identify Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum)

A coarse plant with hairy, sticky stems and few-flowered clusters of small, tubular, red to greenish flowers in axils of upper leaves.

2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m)

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Leaves

Opposite, strongly clasping, ovate to lanceolate, edges may be slightly wavy, 4-10 in (10-25 cm) long, to 4 in (10 cm) wide.

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Stem

Single or multiple from the base, erect, herbaceous, fistulose, to 1m tall, simple, with short glandular pubescence and longer non-glandular hairs.

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Flower Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Flower

Tube or trumpet, 5-parted, red-purple to yellow-green, 0.5 in (12 mm) long; clustered 1-6 per leaf axil.

Wild Coffee (Triosteum Perfoliatum) Fruit (Berries)

Round berry, yellow-orange, 0.3 in (8 mm) wide, in clusters at leaf axils.

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