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Caring For Chinquapins: Tips On Growing Golden Chinquapin

Caring For Chinquapins: Tips On Growing Golden Chinquapin


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By: Liz Baessler

Golden chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla), also commonly called golden chinkapin or giant chinquapin, is a relative of chestnuts that grows in California and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Keep reading to learn more chinquapin information, such as caring for chinquapins and how to grow golden chinquapin trees.

Golden Chinquapin Information

Golden chinquapin trees have a very broad height range. Some are as small as 10 feet (3 m.) high and are really considered to be shrubs. Others, however, can grow to as tall as 150 feet. (45 m.). This huge variance has to do with elevation and exposure, with the shrubbier specimens usually found at high elevations in harsh, windswept conditions.

The bark is brown and very deeply furrowed, with ridges that are 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) thick. The leaves are long and spear shaped with distinctive yellow scales on the underside, earning the tree its name. The tops of the leaves are green.

The tree produces nuts that are enclosed in bright yellow, spiny clusters. Each cluster contains 1 to 3 edible nuts. The trees range natively throughout coastal California and Oregon. In the state of Washington, there are two distinct stands of trees that contain golden chinquapins.

Caring for Chinquapins

Golden chinquapin trees tend to perform best in dry, poor soil. In the wild, they are reported to survive in temperatures ranging from 19 F. (-7 C.) to 98 F. (37 C.).

Growing giant chinquapins is a very slow process. A year after planting, seedlings may be only 1.5 to 4 inches (4-10 cm.) tall. After 4 to 12 years, the seedlings usually only reach between 6 and 18 inches (15-46 cm.) in height.

The seeds do not need to be stratified and can be planted immediately after harvest. If you are looking to collect golden chinquapin seeds, look into the legality of it first. Your local county extension office should be able to help with that.

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Contents

Chinkapin oak is monoecious in flowering habit flowers emerge in April to late May or early June. The staminate flowers are borne in catkins that develop from the leaf axils of the previous year, and the pistillate flowers develop from the axils of the current year's leaves. The fruit, an acorn or nut, is borne singly or in pairs, matures in 1 year, and ripens in September or October. About half of the acorn is enclosed in a thin cup and is chestnut brown to nearly black. [2]

Chinkapin oak is closely related to the smaller but generally similar dwarf chinkapin oak (Quercus prinoides). Chinkapin oak is usually a tree, but occasionally shrubby, while dwarf chinkapin oak is a low-growing, clone-forming shrub. The two species generally occur in different habitats: chinquapin oak is typically found on calcareous soils and rocky slopes, while dwarf chinkapin oak is usually found on acidic substrates, primarily sand or sandy soils, and also dry shales. [2] [6]

Chinkapin oak is also sometimes confused with the related chestnut oak (Quercus montana), which it closely resembles. However, unlike the pointed teeth on the leaves of the chinkapin oak, chestnut oak leaves generally have rounded teeth. The two species have contrasting kinds of bark: chinkapin oak has a gray, flaky bark very similar to that of white oak (Q. alba) but with a more yellow-brown cast to it (hence the occasional name yellow oak for this species), while chestnut oak has dark, solid, deeply ridged bark. The chinkapin oak also has smaller acorns than the chestnut oak or another similar species, the swamp chestnut oak (Q. michauxii), which have some of the largest acorns of any oaks. [2]

Key characteristics of Quercus muehlenbergii include: [7]

  • Leaf base is typically rounded [2]
  • Veins and sinuses are regular [2]
  • Acorns with no stalks or with short stalks less than 8 mm long. The acorns turn chestnut brown in the fall [2]
  • The leaves have sharp teeth but no bristles, as a member of the white oak subgenus of Quercus[2]

Since its recognition as a different species from the similar-appearing chestnut oak (Quercus prinus), Q. muehlenbergii has generally been regarded as a distinct species no subspecies or varieties are currently recognized within it, although a few infraspecific variants had been accepted in the past.

The tree's scientific name honors Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753–1815), a Lutheran pastor and amateur botanist in Pennsylvania. In publishing the name Quercus mühlenbergii, German-American botanist George Engelmann mistakenly used an umlaut in spelling Muhlenberg's name, even though Pennsylvania-born Muhlenberg himself did not use an umlaut in his name. Under the modern rules of botanical nomenclature, umlauts are transliterated, with ü becoming ue, hence Engelmann's Quercus mühlenbergii is now presented as Quercus muehlenbergii. In lack of evidence that Engelmann's use of the umlaut was an unintended error, and hence correctable, the muehlenbergii spelling is considered correct, although the more appropriate orthographic variant Quercus muhlenbergii is often seen. [8]

The low-growing, cloning Q. prinoides (dwarf chinkapin oak) is similar to Q. muehlenbergii and has been confused with it in the past, but is now generally accepted as a distinct species. [6] If the two are considered to be conspecific, the earlier-published name Quercus prinoides has priority over Q. muehlenbergii, and the larger chinkapin oak can then be classified as Quercus prinoides var. acuminata, with the dwarf chinkapin oak being Quercus prinoides var. prinoides. Q. prinoides was named and described by the German botanist Karl (Carl) Ludwig Willdenow in 1801, in a German journal article by Muhlenberg. [2]

Soil and topography Edit

Chinkapin oak is generally found on well-drained upland soils derived from limestone or where limestone outcrops occur. Occasionally it is found on well-drained limestone soils along streams. Chinkapin oak is generally found on soils that are weakly acid (pH about 6.5) to alkaline (above pH 7.0). It grows on both northerly and southerly aspects but is more common on the warmer southerly aspects. It is absent or rare at high elevations in the Appalachians. [ citation needed ]

Associated cover Edit

It is rarely a predominant tree, but it grows in association with many other species. It is a component of the forest cover type White Oak-Black Oak-Northern Red Oak (Society of American Foresters Type 52) and the Post Oak-Blackjack Oak (Type 40) (2).

It grows in association with white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Q. velutina), northern red oak (Q. rubra), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (A. rubrum), hickories (Carya spp.), black cherry (Prunus serotina), cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), American basswood (Tilia americana), black walnut (Juglans nigra), butternut (J. cinerea), and yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). American beech (Fagus grandifolia), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), pitch pine (P. rigida), Virginia pine (P. virginiana), Ozark chinkapin (Castanea ozarkensis), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), bluejack oak (Quercus incana), southern red oak (Q. falcata), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), and winged elm (Ulmus alata) also grow in association with chinkapin oak. In the Missouri Ozarks a redcedar-chinkapin oak association has been described. [ citation needed ]

The most common small tree and shrub species found in association with chinkapin oak include flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Vaccinium spp., Viburnum spp., hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), and sumacs (Rhus spp.). The most common woody vines are wild grape (Vitis spp.) and greenbrier (Smilax spp.). [ citation needed ]

Reaction to competition Edit

Chinkapin oak is classed as intolerant of shade. It withstands moderate shading when young but becomes more intolerant of shade with age. It is regarded as a climax species on dry, drought prone soils, especially those of limestone origin. On more moist sites it is subclimax to climax. It is often found as a component of the climax vegetation in stands on mesic sites with limestone soils. However, many oak-hickory stands on moist sites that contain chinkapin oak are succeeded by a climax forest including beech, maple, and ash. [ citation needed ]

Severe wildfire kills chinkapin oak saplings and small pole-size trees, but these often resprout. However, fire scars serve as entry points for decay-causing fungi, and the resulting decay can cause serious losses. [ citation needed ]

Oak wilt (Bretziella fagacearum), a vascular disease, attacks chinkapin oak and usually kills the tree within two to four years. Other diseases that attack chinkapin oak include the cankers Strumella coryneoidea and Nectria galligena, shoestring root rot (Armillarea mellea), anthracnose (Gnomonia veneta), and leaf blister (Taphrina spp.). [ citation needed ]

The most serious defoliating insects that attack chinkapin oak are the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), the orangestriped oakworm (Anisota senatoria), and the variable oakleaf caterpillar (Heterocampa manteo). Insects that bore into the bole and seriously degrade the products cut from infested trees include the carpenterworm (Prionoyxstus robiniae), little carpenterworm (P. macmurtrei), white oak borer (Goes tigrinus), Columbian timber beetle (Corthylus columbianus), oak timberworm (Arrhenodes minutus), and twolined chestnut borer (Agrilus bilineatus). The acorn weevils (Curculio spp.), larvae of moths (Valentinia glandulella and Melissopus latiferreanus), and gall forming cynipids (Callirhytis spp.) feed on the acorns. [ citation needed ]

Like that of other white oak species, the wood of the chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) is a durable hardwood prized for many types of construction. [9]

The chinquapin oak is especially known for its sweet and palatable acorns. Indeed, the nuts contained inside of the thin shell are among the sweetest of any oak, with an excellent taste even when eaten raw, providing an excellent source of food for both wildlife and people. The acorns are eaten by squirrels, mice, voles, chipmunks, deer, turkey, and other birds. [10] [11]


A brief history

Among other names, the Ozark chinquapin was known to Cherokee Indians as the bread tree, and they ground the nuts into flour. Settlers in the 1800s used its rot-resistant wood to make fence posts and its bark to produce a purple dye. During Prohibition, moonshiners lit its clear-burning wood to avoid detection from revenuers. Daniel Moerman’s 1998 book Native American Ethnobotany cites the chestnut, part of the same genus, as a treatment for whooping cough.

But the sweet-tasting nut, released from a small golden hedgehog of a burr, was the real prize. A protein jackpot, it attracted more wildlife any other Ozark forage. The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation’s game cameras have captured turkeys, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and hogs foraging for the nuts.

“People would go out and get a whole sack, a half a bushel of them,” says Hearold Adams, 99, of Deer, Arkansas. “That’s how good they were. Then all of a sudden, they were gone. Most people don’t even remember they ever existed.”

In the late 1990s, Adams was the one who first taught Bost about the lost tree. Near Adams’ home is a ridgeline once known as Bear Pen Ridge. Black bears were so attracted to the heavy concentration of ridgetop chinquapins that locals used the area for trapping.

Bost breaks down why his work with the Ozark chinquapin is significant beyond the species. He brings up the ash tree, which is facing near-complete die-off at the hands of the invasive emerald ash borer. "There's almost 100 percent fatality, and they're not waiting for the emerald ash borer to kill them,” he says. “They're just cutting them down. If somebody cut down every single chinquapin to remove hosts for the chestnut blight, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing today."


MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

OTHER STATUS:
Information on state- and province-level protection status of plants in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.

IMPORTANCE TO WILDLIFE AND LIVESTOCK:
Giant chinquapin provides cover [116], and its nuts provide food [113,116,124] for many species. It is not an important browse species [60,170].

Palatability and nutritional value: Birds, small mammals [113,116,124], and insects [113] eat giant chinquapin nuts. Squirrels may cache them [116]. McDonald and others [113] note that giant chinquapin nuts are probably nutritious.

Giant chinquapin is not a palatable browse species for domestic sheep [60,170]. Evergreen hardwood communities of southwestern Oregon, which are frequently occupied by giant chinquapin, were ranked low (2 of 5) in browse production [65].

Cover value: Giant chinquapin provides important cover for birds and small- to medium-sized mammals. Pine siskins, red-breasted nuthatches, and flycatchers (Empidonax spp.) were positively associated with giant chinquapin in the Oregon Cascade Range (P VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Giant chinquapin's ability to grow on harsh sites and to sprout after fire suggests it may be important for soil stabilization in watersheds [116].

Giant chinquapin often germinates and grows fairly well in containers, but it rarely survives outplanting. Germination in peat is recommended by Roof [138] and Mirov and Kraebel [121]. In several decades of work, Roof [138] did not observe a single outplanted giant chinquapin that lived more than a few years, and most lived less than a few months. Witt [197] implies transplanting is difficult, but possible, and provides outplanting recommendations [197].

OTHER USES:
Wood: Giant chinquapin wood is strong [7,128] and fine-grained [2,129]. It is often used for furniture [2,116,129], tools [2,7], doors [124], novelties [2], cabinet stock, veneer [116], paneling, and as fuel wood [2,116]. The difficulty of harvesting marketable amounts [116] and complications associated with drying [116,124] are 2 major restrictions limiting its use.

Nuts: The nuts of giant chinquapin are edible [7,199], tasty [3,138,197], and were eaten by American Indians, most notably in northern portions of California [33].

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Given its low commercial value, it is not surprising that there are more data on giant chinquapin response to conifer harvesting than effects of harvesting on giant chinquapin. Giant chinquapin may interfere with conifer growth on some sites and has been targeted for control efforts because of this. Although diseases and insects result in little damage to giant chinquapin, several pests have been observed on giant chinquapin and some have substantial impacts.

Timber harvesting: Recovery of giant chinquapin following clearcutting or thinning may be fast or rather slow. Giant chinquapin sprouts grow quickly on some clearcuts [110] and may slow the establishment of conifers (see Control). It was 1 of 3 woody perennials that dominated the ground cover 3 to 28 years after clearcuts and partial cuts in the southern Oregon Cascade Range [158]. In Douglas-fir forests of western Oregon, mortality of giant chinquapin with DBH of ≥2 inches (5 cm) was lower 5 years after heavy thinning than 5 years after lightly thinning or no treatment (P Control: Since hardwoods, including giant chinquapin, may slow conifer regeneration [149,160], giant chinquapin has been the target of control treatments, including bulldozing [149], ground scarification with a tractor [116], and herbicides [36,42,58,118,123]. Early in succession, giant chinquapin sprouts may interfere with conifer growth [109,116], particularly that of Douglas-fir [118,160,165]. The low light intensities under giant chinquapin are likely to reduce conifer seedling growth [120]. Douglas-fir size was negatively associated with hardwood density 10 years following harvesting in plantations in southwestern Oregon (Harrington 1989 cited in [165]). Bulldozing at least 6 inches (15 cm) of soil to remove giant chinquapin's small sprouting roots [149] or scarification by tractor [116] have been suggested as effective control techniques.

Giant chinquapin is resistant to herbicides [76,116,149,160]. Multiple applications may increase effectiveness 3 treatments in 5 years resulted in 60% mortality in southeastern Oregon [57]. In contrast, spraying followed by burning followed by 2 more applications of herbicide in a 4-year period resulted in increases in scrub golden chinquapin in a brushfield in the Siskiyou Mountains [55]. Several articles address the effectiveness of various herbicides and application methods in controlling giant chinquapin, including Conard and Emmingham [36], Dahms [42], and Newton and Roberts [123].

Diseases and insect pests: Generally, diseases and insects have little impact on giant chinquapin [7,116,124]. Leaf fungi do little damage and root rots are rare [116]. Giant chinquapin is most susceptible to heart-rotting fungi, such as Phellinus igniarius. The filbertworm (Melissopus latiferreanus) may impact reproduction [116,124] (see Seed production). See these sources for further information: [25,31,38,39,105,116,124,144,150,195].


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