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TREES & plants

Chestnut oak

Summer foliage of chestnut oak.

Chestnut oak is native to the far southern edge of Illinois but is hardy in the northern part of the state. Fall color varies from red to orange to yellow-brown. Also known as Quercus prinus.

Botanical name: 
Quercus montana
All Common Names: 
chestnut oak, basket oak, rock oak
Family (English): 
Beech
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
60-70 feet
Mature Width: 
60-70 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow, 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
Wildlife: 
  • Cavity-nesting birds, 
  • Mammals, 
  • Migrant birds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

A deep taproot makes this tree difficult to transplant.
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.
Can tolerate most soils except those that drain poorly.

Disease, pests, and problems

Oak wilt is a potential disease problem.
Insect pests include scale and two-lined chestnut borer.
Galls caused by mites or insects are common, but not harmful.

Native geographic location and habitat

Often found on very poor, dry soils.

Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)fall color of Chestnut Oak photo: John Hagstrom
Native from the southern tip of Illinois, eastward into Appalachia.

Bark color and texture 

Very dark, deeply ridged and furrowed bark at maturity.  Ridges are distinctly V-shaped (wider at the base of the ridge than at the top).

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate, obovate leaves; margins are coarsely serrated; 4 to 6 inches long.
Medium green on the upper leaf surface; whitish on the lower surface.  Fall color varies from red to orange to yellow-brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male flowers in dangling catkins; female flowers smaller and held close to the stem.  Not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Acorns, 1 to 1 1/4 inch long topped with a bumpy cap that covers 1/3 to 1/2 of the nut. 

Quercus montana or Chestnut oak