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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 perform well in alkaline soils. Its glossy, coarsely-toothed leaves are yellow-green and small compared to most oaks. Young trees 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 muehlenbergii
All Common Names: 
Chinkapin oak, Chinquapin oak, yellow chestnut oak, yellow oak, rock oak
Family (English): 
Beech; Oak
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-80 feet
Mature Width: 
50-70 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
Time of Year: 
  • Mid winter
  • Mid summer
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
  • Spreading
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds
  • Game mammals
  • Migrant birds
  • Small mammals
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.