Ozark chinkapin, Castanea ozarkensis, is a deciduous nut bearing tree, growing to 20 meters in height and attaining a trunk diameter of up to 1 meter under ideal conditions. It is a cousin of the chestnut tree and a native to eastern North America of the Southern Appalachian belt. Most of the Ozark chinkapin trees have succumbed to the Chestnut Blight (trees usually develop the blight after 5-6 years) and with only stumps remaining that stay on bearing fruit yearly. Likely, there is an active foundation working to re-establish the tree once again.
Castanea ozarkensis leaves are 12-22 cm in length, up to 5 cm wide, simple, alternate, elliptical, sharp coarsely serrated, green to yellow-green and hairless on top. The leaf’s underside is paler with a downy appearance and with tiny cream color hairs. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Flowers are small, yellowish, bundled into a spike known as a catkin and can be fetid smelling. Male flowers occur in slender erect spikes 20 cm in length. Female flowers are less conspicuous and occur below male flowers of some spikes or in shorter, groupings of female spikes.
The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects. The tree is in flower in early summertime, and the seeds ripen in autumn.
Ozark chinkapin Nuts
Ozark chinkapin nuts are protected by lean, hairy, 2 cm spines that form a protective nut bur. These burs average 4-5 cm in diameter and occur in clusters of 5-20. In autumn the burs split into 2-6 segments, freeing a brown, single, solitary, round, delicious nut. The nuts vary in size from 2 cm to 4 cm in diameter depending on conditions. They may be small but very tasty. They are eaten raw or cooked.
Ozark chinkapin Propagation Methods
Plant propagation is by seed and from old tree stumps. The plant prefers a good well-drained slightly acid loam but also does well in dry soils. Once established, it is very drought tolerant and thrives in areas with hot summers. Generally the trees grow on acidic rocky cherty soils. It hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Castanea ozarkensis is a member of the Fagaceae family the genus Chestnut.
Ozark chinkapin, Castanea ozarkensis
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