A Forager’s Guide to Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

A Forager’s Guide to Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)
Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) is an ornamental plant native to Florida and commonly used in landscapes. The seeds can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute when roasted, but do so with caution, as some sources suggest the brew may cause headaches.

Wild coffee plant profile

Scientific namePsychotria nervosa
Family nameRubiaceae (coffee, bedstraw, or madder family)
Plant typeEvergreen shrub
PhylumVascular plant

Common names include:

 Wild Coffee Identification

Typically, the flowers of this plant bloom in the spring and summer, but they may bloom at any time of the year. Various pollinators are attracted to the flowers, including Atala and Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies.

The wild coffee plant produces many white to greenish-white flowers with tubular shapes and four to five-lobed calyces. They are born in clusters of sessile flowers that may be axillary or terminal.

Its leaves are dark green, glossy, obovate to elliptic, with pointed apices, deep venation, and entire margins. They are arranged oppositely. The stems are glamorous, and the fruits (red berries) are oval drupes that turn bright red when ripe.

The shrubs grow from 4 to 10 feet and spread from 4 to 8 feet with a dense, rounded growth habit.

Psychotria nervosa leaves and flowers
Psychotria nervosa leaves and flowers
Wild coffee berries
Wild coffee berries

Where does wild coffee grow?

This Florida native plant grows naturally in coastal, hydric, mesic, and rockland hammocks.

It prefers hardiness zones 8B to 11.

Is wild coffee poisonous in any way?

Humans can consume the berries. All other parts of the plants are toxic to both humans and pets.

Dogs may experience mild to severe irritation to the skin and mouth if they ingest wild coffee. Chewing the stems or leaves can cause swelling in the throat and mouth.

Can you make coffee from wild coffee?

The seeds can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute when roasted, but do so with caution, as some sources suggest the brew may cause headaches.

A delicious alternative to using wild coffee is mushroom hot chocolate.

What does wild coffee taste like?

Nothing like coffee beans; the taste is bland and has a musty aftertaste. It has been reported that some individuals detect a hint of sweetness. 

Does Psychotria nervosa contain DMT or caffeine?

The wild coffee fruit does not contain any caffeine, unlike its cousin, Coffea arabica, derived from our morning cup of coffee.

Reports of DMT in this species are unsubstantiated.

Some other species of the Psychotria family, including Psychotria viridis, produce the psychedelic chemical dimethyltryptamine.

Any other uses for wild coffee?

Wild coffee grows well as a hedge or espalier

Additionally, it can be used as a foundation, border, or mass planting. 

Psychotria nervosa
Wild coffee

Can you grow wild coffee?

Yes, you can. Wild coffee is a popular choice for South Florida landscapes due to its beautiful evergreen foliage and low maintenance requirements.

  • It is best suited for an accent or specimen plant, although several plants planted together can form a loose hedge.
  • Despite being relatively salt- and drought-tolerant, it does not flourish when exposed to excessive sun or freezing temperatures.
  • No matter where or how you intend to use your wild coffee, it must be planted in well-drained soil to succeed.
  • When grown in partial to full shade, these plants will do well; in full sun, they will become yellowed and remain small.


Ana has always been interested in all things nature and flora. With her expertise in home gardening and interest in foraging, she has been spending her weekends and free time looking for edible native plants, flowers, and fungi. One of her many hobbies includes testing new savory and sweet recipes, juices or teas made from freshly picked plants, wild fruits, or mushrooms.

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