Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the the July 28, 2008 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Above you can see the half-formed acorns and unusual leaves of the Chinkapin Oak, QUERCUS MUEHLENBERGII. The leaves of this species are unusual because of their coarsely serrate or toothed margins, with each serration capped by a sort of callus or gland, and the leaves' undersurfaces being silvery, much paler than the top surfaces. Chinkapin Oaks are fairly common here, though as a slow-growing oak the species is in general decline because "even-age" forest practices (clear-cutting) encourages fast-growing pine plantations to replace our former mixed forests.

Anyway, this is another of those species that just looking at its enlarging acorns and robust leaves fills me with pleasure. The medium-sized tree's bark is ashy gray, rough and flaky.

It's interesting that in the northern part of the Chinkapin Oak's distribution the species tends to grow on dry, rocky soil and limestone ridges. However, in the south they gather in deep valley with rich soils, so I've often wondered whether we might not have two species here. In southwestern Mississippi the thicker the ice-age loess deposits, the more Chinkapins you find.

That interesting word "chinkapin" is considered by etymologists as a probable modification of the Virginia Algonquian word chechinquamin, used to refer to the Chinkapin nut.