Chestnut Oak – Quercus prinus

Chestnut Oak – Quercus prinus
Family Fagaceae – Beech, Chinkapin and Oak
Also called rock oak or tanbark oak, this tree is native to eastern North America.

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chestnut oak foliage in orange fall colors

Chestnut oak provides a spectacular fall color display

chestnut oak range map
Chestnut oak range [2]
Sometimes called rock oak or tanbark oak, this tree is native to the Appalachian region, the coastal plain of New Jersey, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia. Commonly found on dry, infertile soil and rocky ridges, this tree, like many of our native oaks, it grows best in well-drained soils along rivers and streams.  Chestnut oak is not a prodigious acorn producer, and is of medium stature as oaks go; slow-growing and long-lived, the lumber is often marketed as white oak [2].

A variant of this type, chestnut oak-northern red oak, is found in disturbed forests in the Catskills in New York and on Massanutten Mountain in Virginia. The variant chestnut oak-scarlet oak is identified in the central Appalachians, while the variants chestnut oak-pitch pine, chestnut oak-eastern white pine-northern red oak, and chestnut oak-black oak-scarlet oak occur in the southern Appalachians.

Associated species in this type vary greatly by region, elevation, topographic position, and soils, and include other upland oaks and hickories; sweet birch; yellow-poplar (tuliptree); blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica); sweetgum, black cherry, black walnut, red and sugar maples; eastern redcedar, eastern hemlock, and various pines [2].

Chestnut oak is intermediate in shade tolerance. Among the oaks, it is similar in tolerance to white oak, but more tolerant than northern red, black, or scarlet oak. Chestnut oak is susceptible to most of the diseases of oaks including oak wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum). It is particularly susceptible to the twig-blight fungus Diplodia longispora, a dieback and branch canker caused by Botryodiplodia spp., and, from Virginia northward, stem cankers.
chestnut oak tree
Chestnut Oak is 35 years old [1]

Chestnut oak is monoecious; the flowers develop in the spring at the time of bud-break and leaf development. The staminate flowers are borne on aments (catkins) that originate from buds in the terminal bud cluster of the previous year's shoots [2].

Major insect defoliators of oak trees include the oak leaf-eater (Croesia semipurpurana), fall cankerworm, forest tent caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria), gypsy moth, and orange striped oakworm. Coupled with defoliation by spring frosts, repeated defoliation by these insects either individually or in combination is thought to be the primary cause of "decline" and mortality of scarlet and other oaks in the white oak group.

Acorn Weevil
Acorn Weevil, Curculio sp. [3]
The acorns of chestnut oak are frequently infested with larvae of the nut weevils Curculio (left), the moth Valentinia glandulella, and the cynipid gall wasps. However, one study indicated that chestnut oak acorns may have lower insect infestation rates than acorns of other oaks.

Chestnut oak is more resistant to wood borers than most oaks but is particularly susceptible to attack by ambrosia beetles, especially the Columbian timber beetle and several species of the genera Platypus and Xyleborus; these beetles are particularly damaging to trees that have been weakened by fire or drought.


The more important wood borers that attack chestnut oak are the oak timberworm, the carpenterworm, and the little carpenterworm (P. macmurtrei). Chestnut oaks are also susceptible to several gall-forming wasps (Cynipidae), a pit scale (Asterolecanium quercicola), and the golden oak scale (A. variolosum). These insects may kill twigs and branches but rarely kill mature trees [2].

1. Chestnut Oak, Morton Arboretum acc. 55-75-15, photos by Bruce Marlin
2. Robert McQuilkin, USDA Forest Service Manual vol 2. Hardwoods, 'Chestnut Oak'
3. North American Insects & Spiders, 'Acorn Weevil, Curculio sp.'
Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

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Family Fagaceae: Oak, Beech & Chinkapin
There are about 900 species in this family worldwide, about 65 trees and 10 shrubs of which are native to North America. Native to the northern hemisphere, the oak genus Quercus contains about 600 species, including both deciduous and evergreen species.
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