Rock Chestnut Oak
OTHER COMMON NAMES: CHESTNUT OAK, YELLOW CHESTNUT OAK, ROCK CHESTNUT OAK, ROCK OAK, YELLOW OAK, CHINQUAPIN OAK
Quercus muehlenbergii (KWER-cus mule-len-BERG-ee-eye
Fagaceae (Beech Family)
Deciduous shade tree
HEIGHT: 70 to 90 feet
SPREAD: 70 to 80 feet
FINAL SPACING: 20 to 50 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: From northeast Texas through Central Texas and also spots in the Trans Pecos. Chinkapin oak is seen often in deeper well-drained soils along rivers and creek bottoms. Likes moist and swampy soil, but can also grow in drier, rocky soils.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Chinkapin oak is a large-growing, dramatic tree with true chinquapin type leaves, large acorns and a light gray colored flaky bark. Fall color is yellowish brown and not spectacular.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Male flowers are rust-colored and hang from the terminal growth in the early spring. Female flowers bloom singly or in small clusters. Male and female flowers are catkins and they separate on the same tree appearing after the leaves are about one third grown. Fruits are dark purple to black acorns that mature in the fall, September through October in clusters or singly – usually two on single dark stems about as long as the leaf.
BARK: Light gray colored and flaky
FOLIAGE: Pretty foliage that has yellow to brownish fall color that is not spectacular. Leaves are toothed, not lobed, alternate, simple and deciduous.
CULTURE: The common name from this tree comes from the similarity of the leaves to the true chinquapin Castanea pumila which is another member of the same family but native to East United States and has been seen growing in deep east Texas. It needs deep sandy acid soil.
PROBLEMS: Chinkapin oak can’t stand wet feet or poor drainage. Larger specimens are hard to transplant. It is best to buy this tree as a nursery grown plant. Container grown plants are the best buy.
PROPAGATION: Chinkapin oak is easy to propagate from the acorns. Plant there as soon as possible after releasing from the tree in the same kind of soil the tree will eventually be growing in. Air root pruning of the seedlings as recommended by Dr. Carl Whitcomb in his books.
INSIGHT: This tree is easily confused with Quercus michauxii, swamp chestnut oak, which does not grow well in alkaline soils. It also has more rounded lobes in contrast to the chinkapin oak’s sharp pointed edges.