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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):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline 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

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow,
  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • 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. 

Location of Quercus montana (Chestnut oak) at the Arboretum