Introduction of the Common Chinkapin:
The Allegheny chinkapin, also called common chinkapin, may well be the most ignored and undervalued native North American nut tree. It has been widely hailed as a sweet and edible nut and has been of value to it's cousin, the American chestnut's breeding programs. It is, however a small nut encased in a tough bur which makes for difficulties in harvesting the nut.
Pronunciation: cast-ah-neigha pum-ill-ah
Common name(s): Allegheny chinkapin, common chinquapin, American chinkapin
USDA hardiness zones: USDA hardiness zones: USDA hardiness zones: 5b through 9A
Origin: native to North America
The Special Little Chinkapin Nut:
A horticulturist once remarked, "the Allegheny chinkapin makes your mouth water but to see it makes your eyes water", obviously liking both the tree's beauty and bounty. Other experts suggest that the tree is "well worthy of cultivation as an ornamental shade tree, even if we leave out of the account its rapid growth, productiveness, and delicious little nuts, which will be very acceptable for home use." There are several online sources where you can purchase the tree.
General Chinkapin Description:
Chinkapin Leaf Characteristics:
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: toothed
Leaf shape: elliptical; oblong
Leaf venation: parallel side veins
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 3 to 6 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Chinkapin Nut Harvest:
Again, one single brown nut is contained in each spiny green bur. When these burs start to separate and begin changing into a fall yellow color, its time for seed collection. The burs of chinkapin are normally no more than 1.4 to 4.6 cm in diameter and will split in two sections at nut maturity.
Pests and Diseases of Chinkapin:
Chinkapins are fairly susceptible to the Phytophthora cinnamomi root rotting fungus as are many tree species. The tree can also suffer from the blight of the American chestnut.
Although the Allegheny chinkapin seems to be somewhat resistant to the American chestnut blight which is a fungal disease caused by Cryphonectria parasitica. only a few heavily cankered trees have been found in Georgia and Louisiana. Chinkapins that do blight will continue to sucker and send up shoots from the root collar despite the cankering and will produce fruit.
The great drawback of Allegheny chinkapin is its small nut size and the added disadvantage that many nuts stick fast in the bur at harvest and have to be removed by force. Because these nuts are small, are difficult to harvest and can germinate before harvest time, they have limited potential as a commercial crop. Good news is that the tree's small size, precocity and heavy production may be useful characteristics to breed into the commercial chestnut species.
The chinkapin is adapted to a wide range of soils and site conditions and should be considered for its wildlife value. The nuts are eaten by a number of small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, deermice, and chipmunks. By cutting the stem at the ground surface, dense thickets can be established within a few years to provide food and cover for wildlife, especially grouse, bobwhite, and wild turkey.