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A very special tree you’ll never find at the box stores! Chinkapin Oak is a hard-to-find shade tree that will make a marvelous native specimen for your lawn. In time, this picturesque Oak develops a rounded outline, with wavy branches that give it a sculptural feel. In summer, the leaves dance in the wind, flashing their silvery undersides. In autumn, the foliage takes on warm golden to golden-brown tones. Should you choose Chinkapin Oak, give this long-lived legacy tree a place of honor in your landscape. Magnificent trees over 400 years old are known to exist in Kentucky and Texas!
Although Chinkapin Oak is rarely planted, it’s not because it’s some new, exotic discovery. Chinkapin Oak is native to the U.S., from Wisconsin to Vermont and south to New Mexico and South Carolina. Its range also extends into Mexico. Nowhere is it a dominant tree, but it is most plentiful near the center of its range—along the Ohio River, in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. In years past, its wood was used in those states to build fences, and later to fuel the steamships that traveled up and down the Ohio River.
Blue jay buffet! Chinkapin Oak acorns are possibly the sweetest-tasting of all acorns, and they’re a hit with blue jays, squirrels, chipmunks, and all sorts of wildlife. They’re edible for humans, too, if you want to give your trail mix a twist (you can roast them first or eat them raw). This species is one of the most precocious Oaks (producing its first acorns at a young age), so you won’t have to wait forever to start getting those sweet snacks.
How to Grow
Plant Chinkapin Oak in a site where it will receive all-day sun. Clay soil is no problem. Alkaline (high pH) soil is also acceptable, which is unusual for Oaks. Many Oaks, particularly the popular Pin Oak, will turn chlorotic (yellow) on alkaline soils, but Chinkapin Oak often grows on those types of soils in the wild and is perfectly adapted to them. Little pruning will be necessary, but if you must prune, do so only between December and February. The fungal disease Oak Wilt can strike when Oaks are pruned during active growth. A member of the White Oak Group, Chinkapin Oak is less susceptible to Oak Wilt than members of the Red Oak Group, but it is still vulnerable.
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