By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Chinquapin Oak, Quercus muehlengergii, is a medium to large tree reaching a height of 70 feet and a trunk that can reach 3 feet in diameter, with a rounded crown of glossy, green foliage. This tree is suitable for use in most of Texas, including West Texas.
Its saw-tooth green leaves turn yellow to bronze in the fall and it is adaptable to a wide range of soil types. This oak is fast growing and develops a rounded crown as it matures.
It requires full sun and is seldom troubled by disease or pests.
Although uncommon in most of our state, the Chinquapin Oak is an oak for our area and is one of the one of the most attractive oaks for our area. This oak has an acorn are highly edible and were originally called chinquapins! The species name honors Henry Ernest Muhlenberg, 18-19th Lutheran minister-botanist from Pennsylvania. He managed to maintain his ministry, co-found a school which later became Franklin & Marshall College. His legacy is honored by the many species that bear his name, including a genus of grasses featured on one of our articles: Deer Grass.
If you are interested in increasing the habitat value of your yard, Chinquapin Oak is a wonderful addition. They provide shelter and food for urban wildlife including birds. It is the larval host of the Gray Hairstreak, one of our little but attractive butterflies.
Chinquapin Oak has been designated as a Texas Superstar™ plant by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Meaning this tree has been through several years of extensive field trials by Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
This tree produces sweet acorns that are eaten by wildlife and humans. They are the sweetest of all oak acorns. Acorn meats can be processed and dried or roasted and used to make bread dough, muffin batter and a coffee substitute.
This tree increases the biodiversity of your yard and connects to the history of our country.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.