NICE! Plant of the Month
Chinquapin (chinkapin) oaks seldom reach more than 50-60 feet here in Central Texas, but often attain much greater heights elsewhere. The natural range of the chinquapin oak is from Maine and Quebec in the north, to Kansas in the west, and into northeastern Mexico in the south. In the Hill Country, chinquapin oaks are found growing in limestone soils in protected canyons and on steep slopes above streams. This tree has a rounded, spreading crown and a single strong trunk. The simple, alternate, deciduous leaves are from 4-6” long and 1-4” wide with a pointed tip and serrated edges. In favorable years, leaves turn a rusty bronze color before falling. Flowering occurs during spring with both male and female flowers (catkins) occurring on the same tree. The fuzzy male catkins are conspicuous while the female catkins are inconspicuous. The single or paired one-inch oval acorns mature in one year. Approximately one-half the length of the acorn is enclosed in a dark thin cup. Chinquapin oak is a moderate to fast-growing member of the white oak family and is highly resistant to the oak wilt disease.
Young trees are readily browsed and should be protected.
Chinquapin oak adapts well to most planting sites and soil types in the Hill Country but performs best in well-drained areas. Plant chinquapin in full sun to part shade.
Dig hole 2-5 times wider than, but the same depth as the root ball in the nursery container. Carefully remove plant from container, taking care not to break the root ball. Loosen exterior roots, if root bound. Position the root ball so the top is level with the surrounding area. Backfill the hole around the root ball with native soil dug from the hole. Do not add any soil to the top of the root ball unless the top roots have become exposed due to improper watering. To aid in watering in well-drained sites during the first year, use loose soil to construct a 3-4 inch retaining wall around the area. Apply mulch or compost over the root ball and surrounding area. When planting more than one specimen, space plants 20-40 feet apart, depending on the desired mature appearance.
Water in well after planting. An organic-based root stimulator applied according to product directions may be used. Repeat watering a few days after planting. Water deeply every 7-10 days, after checking an inch or two into soil at edge of root ball to determine soil moisture. Skip a watering after a rain of ½ to 1 inch. Maintain this watering schedule until the first fall after planting. Reduce water during fall and winter. In a “normal” year, no watering may be necessary in fall and winter, but during a dry period, monthly watering may be desirable. Chinquapin oak is very drought tolerant once established.
Use the strong-wooded, longer-lived chinquapin instead of a weak-wooded Arizona Ash. Plant a variety of tree species to provide food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. This also guards against major landscape losses should oak wilt appear in your neighborhood. Oak-wilt-resistant oak trees are landscape insurance!
An edible, nut flavored flour can be produced from acorns if the tannic acid is leached or boiled away and the nuts roasted before being ground. The sweet acorns have a low tannic acid content making them highly desirable to both humans and wildlife. Due to their high protein and oil content, acorns have played a large role in the diets of many native peoples worldwide. Livestock and many species of wildlife forage on the sweet nuts. Dyes and tannin from oak barks, nuts and galls are used to color many fibrous materials and to process leather. White oak woods are very hard, fine-grained and extremely desirable for building, furniture, cross ties, barrel stays and tool handles.
Look for the NICE! Plant of the Month signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating Boerne nursery. And thank you for supporting native plants by using them in your landscapes.