Chinquapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii: Medium-large tree
Description: Chinquapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii, will usually grow up to 70 ft tall, with a trunk up to 3 ft in diameter. This white oak is native in northeast and central Texas and is suitable for planting as a shade tree. In spring and summer, it has glossy green, oblong, saw-toothed leaves that are up to 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. Chinquapin Oak is among the last trees to lose its leaves in the fall, which turn golden yellow to bronze. Chinquapin’s common name refers to the similarity of its leaves to Allegheny Chinquapin, Castanea pumila, in the chestnut tree family. The scientific species name Q. muehlenbergii honors Gotthilf Muhlenberg (1753-1815), a Pennsylvania botanist and Lutheran minister.
Flowers and Seeds: Chinquapin Oak produces both male fuzzy catkin type flowers in the spring that are green, yellow or brown and inconspicuous female catkins. These are followed by acorns that turn chestnut brown in the fall. The acorns are small, 0.5 to 1.5 inches in diameter and are said to be edible when roasted.
Planting sites: Full sun or partial shade is best for Chinquapin Oak and it should be planted where it will have room to grow. It grows best in neutral or slightly alkaline soils but will tolerate acidic soils. It must have well-drained soil.
Watering Instructions: Although Chinquapin Oak is drought-tolerant, newly planted trees should be watered during a dry spell. Once established, Chinquapin Oak will only need water during extreme drought.
Comments: Chinquapin Oak is a good-looking choice as a shade tree in North Texas. It is relatively fast growing for an oak and is also relatively free of pests and diseases. It is resistant to oak wilt disease. Chinquapin Oak was designated a Texas SuperstarTM by Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, who have noted that it is underused as a shade tree and should be planted more. Chinquapin Oak is the larval host for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly. Good companion plants include xeric shade-tolerant groundcovers like Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), Wood Fern (Woodsia obtuse), Cedar Sedge (Carex planostachys) and Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis).
Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein