Walking along in the frigid sunshine at the park's western edge, I saw what looked like roughly made brown leather change-purses lying just outside the fence. I picked one up and pried it open; it contained fat oval seeds as big as cough drops, along with some kind of ghastly green slime.
Looking up, I noticed lots more, some clinging in banana-like bunches to the highest branches of a tall tree inside the park boundary. Here's the whole tree, part of my ongoing "Stiff Neck Series."
As it happens, I have been fascinated by seed pods to the point of obsession since childhood. And these were some variety I don't recall ever seeing in my life. Back home, I took a closer look at one. It brought to mind "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." What was this?
Thanks to a nifty site called, logically, "What Tree is It?" I found out: the Kentucky Coffeetree, a native of eastern North America. Ew: The name comes from the fact that Kentucky pioneers apparently used the beans as a coffee substitute. But according to the Arbor Day website, the raw seeds are toxic to humans, so they must have done some tedious boiling or roasting in the manner of caffeine-starved pioneers everywhere. The pods (borne only on female trees) apparently follow purplish flowers with a "rose-like fragrance."
Here are the leaves to look for in Spring, a classic legume look (or, as we Tree Identifiers like to say, "bipinnately compound").
(N.B. To my knowledge, there are no Schubert lieder about coffeetrees.)