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Chinkapin Oak

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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Quercus muehlenbergii
FAMILY: Fagaceae

Hardiness Zones 4 to 6

Growth habit Deciduous shade tree with a pyramidal growth pattern as a young tree, becoming more rounded as the tree matures. With enough room on an optimal growing site it can grow to a height of 60 feet and a spread of 60 feet at maturity.

Foliage Deep forest green and lustrous upper leaf surface with a white and slightly fuzzy lower surface. Leaf margins are coarsely toothed.

Flowers Male and female flowers found on the same tree and are not very showy.

Fruit Elliptical shaped acorn up to one inch long with the cap covering a third to a half of the fruit. The acorn is sweet and relished by wildlife.

Bark The main trunk is gray in color with a somewhat flaky habit.

Twigs Young branches are smooth and light brown.

Insects and diseases No major pest problems observed on this tree.

Landscape value This is a full sun tree that is somewhat tolerant of alkaline soils and there are only a handful of oaks that will tolerate Colorado’s clay alkaline soils. The closest this tree grows naturally to Colorado is eastern Kansas. This is a rare oak for the Colorado landscape that is now being planted more and more. The state champion Chinkapin oak is in Denver with a diameter over 30 inches and a height of 60 feet.

Special note The Chinkapin oak was selected as the 2009 Urban Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). The SMA is a national organization of over 1,300 municipal arborists and urban foresters.

Information sources
Michael Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (University of Georgia, 1990)