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TREES & Plants

Chinkapin Oak

Chinkapin oak is native to the Midwest, where it is often found as a specimen planting or as a grouping of tree for parks and large areas.  Chinkapin oaks are found on dry, limestone outcrops in the wild and one of the best for alkaine soils.   Its glossy, coarsely-toothed leaves are yellow-green and small compared to most oaks. Young oaks retain a pyramidal to oval habit with a pale gray, scaly ridged central trunk. As trees age, the crown becomes more rounded.  

Botanical name: 
Quercus muhlenbergii
All Common Names: 
Chinkapin Oak, Chinquapin Oak, Yellow Chestnut Oak
Family (English): 
Beech, Oak
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Dry sites
  • Alkaline soil
  • Clay soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Yellow
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
  • Spreading
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Time of Year: 
  • Mid winter
  • Mid summer
  • Mid fall
More Information: 

Size & Form

40 to 50 feet high and wide
A straight trunked, columnar to spreading tree 

Tree & Plant Care

Best grown in rich, deep soils but often found in the wild on dry, limestone outcrops in low slopes, and  wooded hillsides
One of the best oaks for alkaline soils
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Disease, pests, and problems

Anthracnose, oak wilt, two-lined chestnut borer

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to eastern and central United States
C-Value: 8

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Nuts are heavily used by birds deer and squirrels.

Bark color and texture 

Mature bark is ashy-gray with flaky, scaly ridges and plates. The scales are separated by shallow fissures.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate,  variable in shape and size, coarsly toothed with each tooth ending in a point.
Leaves are 4 to 6 inches long, dark green and smooth above, often pale and slightly hair beneath.
Fall color is a yellow to orange-brown to brown

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Borne separately on same tree in April and May. Male flowers are clusters of hanging catkins. Female flowers are inconspicuous tiny spikes found in the axils of new leaves.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small, solitary, 1/2 inch long acorn with a thin, bowl-shaped warty cap covering half of the nut. Ripe fruit is dark brown to black.