Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Allegheny Chinquapin - Castanea pumila   (L.) P. Miller
Members of Fagaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Fagales » Family Fagaceae
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Author(L.) P. Miller
DistributionEssentially throughout the state, but as with many woody plants, it is of spotty distribution in the far eastern counties (and probably absent in some counties in that region).

This is a somewhat Southern species, ranging north to NJ and southern MO, and south to central FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceDespite it being present in nearly every county, it is generally just fairly common across the state, and rare in the far eastern counties. RAB (1968) states that it is “most abundant in mts., occasional in pied.and cp.” Thus, more specifically, it is fairly common to at least locally common in the Mountains, infrequent to at best fairly common in the Piedmont, and variously uncommon to reasonably common in the Coastal Plain (where there are more sandy soils than in the Piedmont).
HabitatThis species requires dry soils, typically somewhat sandy ones but not in deep sands. It also occurs in somewhat rocky sites, as well. It occurs in various pine/scrub oak sandhills, dry sandy woods, and somewhat xeric upland forest types in the Piedmont and Mountains. It can be found in similar habitats as American Chestnut (C. dentata) in the mountains and in the western Piedmont.
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from September to October.
IdentificationThis is a familiar large shrub to small tree, usually only 15-25 feet tall; it may have several trunks. The alternate, deciduous leaves are similar to those of American Chestnut; however, there are several differences. Chinquapin leaves are somewhat shorter, averaging 4-5 inches long; are whitish to very pale green and quite hairy on the undersides (chestnut leaves are greenish and glabrous below); the leaves are nearly oblong with somewhat parallel sides; and the teeth are rather shallow and not obvious at much distance. Chestnuts rarely reach flowering or fruiting height anymore, and thus the very distinctive long spikes of tiny pale yellow or creamy flowers, often heavily visited by insects for nectar, are conspicuous at the ends of the branches of Chinquapins. The spiny fruits are the size of small golf balls. Thus, this species, which has a number of varieties or at least former varieties, should be readily identifiable for most of the year.
Taxonomic CommentsInterestingly, and thankfully for non-botanists, both NatureServe and Weakley (2018) do not currently list any varieties. However, many older references had listed not only varieties for C. pumila but also split out C. alnifolia from it (as in RAB 1968). Probably, lumping of these shrub-sized “chestnuts/chinquapins” into one taxon is not likely the final word.

Other Common Name(s)Chinquapin, Common Chinquapin, American Chinquapin, Dwarf Chestnut, Ozark Chinquapin. Note that some references spell the word as “Chinkapin” instead of Chinquapin.
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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BA SorrieKitty Hawk Woods, trail south from Birch Lane, Sept 2022. DareBIUPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieFort Bragg, mesic terrace by Little River.
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