Rustic coffee plantations are characterised by the use of numerous wild and cultivated tree species for providing shade to the coffee shrubs. This paper analyses the role of these plantations in wild tree conservation through the examination of their patterns of floristic variation in southern Mexico. The studied plantations included a total of 45 plant species, most of which were wild tree species, including both mature forest and pioneer taxa. An extrapolation of the species accumulation curve among stands indicated that the whole system, composed of more than 100 coffee plantations, may harbour as many as 34 species of wild trees. The floristic structure of rustic coffee plantations was highly variable. This variation is a result of a combination of factors such as human management, original stand cover and the asynchrony in development stage of different plantations. This promotes a large β-diversity in the system. Thus, although a single plantation may have a limited potential to preserve wild tree species, it is the whole ensemble of floristically heterogeneous plantations which renders this agroforestry system valuable for plant diversity conservation, particularly in a region where native forest vegetation has almost disappeared.