This low-maintenance, deciduous, 50-80’ tall shade tree with a broad, rounded crown will flourish and become a magnificent specimen in a wide range of conditions. It thrives in full sun and a wide range of soils, including alkaline, although growth will be smaller and shrubby in dry, low-nutrient soils. A member of the white oak group, its oblong-shaped and coarsely toothed leaves that turn from glossy green to orange or red are more like that of the chestnut tree. The straight trunk, ashy bark, and branch structure create a beautiful silhouette in winter. As a keystone species, it hosts a huge number of pollinator and lepidoptera larvae and produces bumper crops of acorns, or mast, every few years that provide high-quality, preferred food for wildlife. The spring flowers attract hummingbirds and bees, and songbirds visit to feast on the insects.
Lenape tribes revered the chinkapin oak tree and, in times of hardship, offered gifts and prayers for good fortune under the mighty branches.
Native habitats include rich forests and forest margins, stabilized dunes, dry limestone outcrops, rocky slopes, and exposed bluffs. It’s often planted as a specimen or as part of a grouping of trees in large lawns and parks.
Grows 50-80’ (over 100’ in ideal conditions) tall and 50-70’ wide.
Grows best in full sun but tolerates part shade, especially when young.
Prefers alkaline, moist, well-drained soils. Does well in rocky, sandy, somewhat acidic, loamy, slightly wet, and clay soils. It tolerates wet conditions and some drought.
Greenish-yellow male and female flowers appear May-June, followed by yearly, one-inch, brown-to-black acorns with caps covering half the nut.
Oblong yellow-green/green leaves are coarsely toothed and 4–8" in length. Smooth upper surface is glossy, while lower surface is dull. Fall color varies from yellow to orangish-brown to brown.
Trunk is usually straight and covered with pale gray platy or ridged bark.
Host plant for 477 species of lepidoptera larvae, among them the rosy maple, interrupted dagger, and royal walnut moths. Flowers attract bees and hummingbirds, while finches, sparrows, cardinals, and titmice are some of the birds that feast on the many insects attracted by this tree. Deer, blue jays, woodpeckers, flickers, wild turkeys, deer, and squirrels rely on these acorns for winter sustenance. The low branches and long-persisting leaves of young oaks serve as especially good winter cover for many types of wildlife.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans used dry leaves to treat headaches, fevers and blisters and the roots for digestive distress.
The acorns were a valuable, nutritious food source for Native Americans. The nuts are edible after tannins are leached from them. They may be fried, mixed into soups, or added to breads and muffins.
The durable wood is strong and shock resistant. Early pioneers in the Midwest used the straight wood to make thousands of miles of fences. Later, the wood was used as fuel for steamships and as railroad ties for the new railroads. It was also made into barrels for liquid merchandise. It is still widely used for making cabinets, furniture, pallets, and containers.
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