SCIENTIFIC NAME: Quercus muehlenbergii
Hardiness: Zones 4 to 6
Growth habit: Deciduous shade tree with a pyramidal growth pattern as a young tree, becoming more rounded as the tree matures. With enough room on an optimal growing site it can grow to a height of 60 feet and a spread of 60 feet at maturity.
Foliage: Deep forest green and lustrous upper leaf surface with a white and slightly fuzzy lower surface. Leaf margins are coarsely toothed.
Flowers: Male and female flowers found on the same tree and are not very showy.
Fruit: Elliptical shaped acorn up to one inch long with the cap covering a third to a half of the fruit. The acorn is sweet and relished by wildlife.
Bark: The main trunk is gray in color with a somewhat flaky habit.
Twigs: Young branches are smooth and light brown.
Insects and diseases: No major pest problems observed on this tree.
Landscape value: This is a full sun tree that is somewhat tolerant of alkaline soils and there are only a handful of oaks that will tolerate Colorado’s clay alkaline soils. The closest this tree grows naturally to Colorado is eastern Kansas. This is a rare oak for the Colorado landscape that is now being planted more and more. The state champion Chinkapin oak is in Denver with a diameter over 30 inches and a height of 60 feet.
Special note: The Chinkapin oak was selected as the 2009 Urban Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). The SMA is a national organization of over 1,300 municipal arborists and urban foresters.
Information sources: Michael Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (University of Georgia, 1990)