Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 963 Quercus muehlenbergii

Common Names: chinkapin oak, yellow chestnut oak, chinquapin oak, yellow oak Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
Image Gallery

trunk of mature chinkapin oak
A mature chinkapin oak presents colorful autumn foliage against a bright blue Ohio sky.
chinkapin oak fall foliage
Chinkapin oak leaves in autumn just as they are turning from summer green to autumn yellow.


Chinkapin oak is a medium size deciduous tree in the white oak group (i.e., leaves lack bristle tips and acorns mature in a single season). Chinkapin oak normally gets 60-80 ft (18.3-24.4 m) tall with a clean, straight trunk and a narrow, rounded crown. The bark is light ashy gray and broken into thin, narrow flakes. The coarsely toothed leaves are 4-7 in (10.2-17.8 cm) long, and relatively narrow, just a third to a half as wide as they are long. They resemble the leaves of chestnut. Leaves are yellowish green in summer, turning yellow-brown or red in fall. The acorns are 0.5-1 in (1.3-2.5 cm) long but usually less than 0.75 in (1.9 cm). They are enclosed for almost half their length in a scaly cup that has hairs on the scales, these creating a fringe along the margin of the cup. The acorns are sweet and edible, and mature in a single season. Near the northern limits of its range, chinkapin oak often grows as a shrub. It attains it greatest size in the lower Ohio and Wabash River valleys of southern Illinois and Indiana.

Chinkapin oak resembles chestnut oak (Q. prinus) and swamp chestnut oak (Q. michauxii) but both of them have acorns that are more than an inch long.


Chinkapin oak, Quercus muehlenbergii, occurs naturally in the midwestern and eastern U.S., but not on the Coastal Plain. It ranges from western New England and southern Michigan, through Ohio and all of West Virginia, south through the Appalachian Mountains and western Georgia (but not at high elevations), thence west to the Texas Hill Country, eastern Oklahoma and eastern Kansas, all of Missouri and Illinois, and eastern Iowa. Chinkapin oak occurs in Florida only on bluffs and slopes in the Apalachicola River Valley from Jackson to Leon Counties. Throughout its range, chinkapin oak grows in well drained soils on upland sites, especially bluffs and slopes, and characteristically on limestone outcrops. Chinkapin oak is not common anywhere within its range.

chinkapin oak foliage and acorn
This is the foliage and acorns of the chinkapin oak in early October. The inset shows detail of the artfully patterned acorn.


Chinkapin oak grows naturally in calcareous, alkaline soils, and may not do well in acidic soils. It grows rapidly when young. Light: In the open, chinkapin oak develops a wide spreading crown; in the forest, competing with other trees, it retains a narrow crown. Seedlings are tolerant of shade, but saplings and young trees soon become intolerant. Moisture: Chinkapin oak tolerates normal droughts. It requires a well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. Propagation: Acorns will germinate without any pretreatment as soon as they are mature.
mature chinkapin oak
This centenarian chinkapin oak has long made his home in the Ohio River Valley at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio.
trunk of mature chinkapin oak
Flaking, ash gray bark clothes the massive bole and mighty branches of an ancient chinkapin oak.


Chinkapin oak is a handsome tree, but one that is rarely found in cultivation. It would make a fine specimen for parks, estates and larger lawns. Because it is not a large tree and is relatively uncommon over its natural range, chinkapin oak is of little commercial value, despite the fact that the wood is of excellent quality, similar to that of white oak (Quercus alba). The sweet acorns are relished by wildlife and are even palatable to humans.


It is said that chinkapin oaks in the original forests of the Ohio Valley reached 160 ft (48.8 m)in height with trunk diameters of more than 5 ft (1.5 m). The National Champion now, in Clark County, Kentucky, is 110 ft (33.5 m) tall with a trunk diameter of 6.8 ft.

Steve Christman 10/17/02; updated 11/11/03, 9/25/04, 11/11/10

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Quercus species profiled on Floridata:

Quercus acutissima

( sawtooth oak )

Quercus alba

( white oak )

Quercus bicolor

( swamp white oak )

Quercus cerris

( Turkish oak, Turkey oak )

Quercus coccinea

( scarlet oak )

Quercus falcata

( southern red oak, Spanish oak )

Quercus geminata

( sand live oak )

Quercus hemisphaerica

( laurel oak, upland laurel oak, damn laurel oak )

Quercus imbricaria

( shingle oak, northern laurel oak )

Quercus laevis

( turkey oak, blackjack oak )

Quercus macrocarpa

( bur oak, mossycup oak )

Quercus michauxii

( swamp chestnut oak, basket oak, cow oak )

Quercus muehlenbergii

( chinkapin oak, yellow chestnut oak, chinquapin oak, yellow oak )

Quercus nigra

( water oak, spotted oak, possum oak )

Quercus nuttallii

( nuttall oak )

Quercus palustris

( pin oak, Spanish oak, swamp oak )

Quercus phellos

( willow oak )

Quercus prinus

( chestnut oak,rock chestnut oak,rock oak,basket oak,tanbark oak )

Quercus robur

( English oak, pedunculate oak, truffle oak )

Quercus rubra

( northern red oak )

Quercus shumardii

( Shumard oak, Shumard red oak )

Quercus velutina

( black oak, quercitron oak, yellowbark oak, yellow oak )

Quercus virginiana

( live oak )

More Floridata:

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC