Comprehensive Description

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General: Beech Family (Fagaceae). Chinkapin is a monoecious small tree or large shrub that grows to be 2 to 5 m tall. The twigs are densely hairy (tomentose) when young, becoming shiny brown with densely reddish-hairy buds. The leaves are alternate, simple, short-stemmed, prominently veined, oblong with fine pointed teeth or bristles, up to 15 cm long, and tomentose on the lower surface. Male flowers are borne in the leaf axils, elongated, yellow to white, clustered, and have a strong odor. Female flowers are rounder with a diameter up to 3 cm. The fruit is a spiny bur that houses a single nut. Male flowers appear in May and June, female flowers later in the season. Fruits mature in autumn and winter.

Distribution: Chinkapin is native to the eastern and southern United States. Its native range is from New Jersey and West Virginia, west to Missouri and Oklahoma, and south to Texas and Florida. It has been planted in Wisconsin and Michigan where it has become a forest tree. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site (

Habitat: Chinkapin occurs in mixed hardwood forests among longleaf pine and scrub oak trees on high ridges and slopes that are free from limestone. It grows on black sandy dunes in the Carolinas, but not on frontal dunes. It is also found on well-drained stream terraces, dry pinelands, and disturbed sites such as railroad rights-of-way, power line clearings, fence and hedgerows, pine plantations, and old fields.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database


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