Chestnut OakQuercus montana
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The Chestnut Oak is a majestic native tree that grows into a large specimen at least 60 feet tall and wide. It grows on rocky ground where other oaks don’t thrive and it is very long-lived. It is fast enough growing to make a 15 foot specimen within 10 years, yet long-lived enough to still be here for your great-great-grandchildren. It’s handsome glossy leaves are truly ‘oak-like’ and they turn glowing gold in fall. The large acorns are produced in abundance by older trees, valuable food for wild birds and mammals. Plant it on a large lawn or among existing trees to enrich and restore woodlands.
Plant the Chestnut Oak in full sun, or so that it grows up into full sun. It grows well in any well-drained soil, even dry, rocky ones, or in deeper, richer loams. Rather than having pests it protects many butterfly species, and once established it is drought resistant. Some formative pruning when young is valuable, but this tree is self-sufficient and established trees need no significant care to thrive.
There are many reasons to grow trees, from the profound pleasure of watching them grow under your care to helping re-green our desperate planet. Choosing what trees to grow depends on the size of your property, your climate and the nature of your soil and land. There was once a tradition of planting trees for future generations, and if there was ever a time for the revival of that tradition, it is today.
Top of any list of large, long-lived trees are the oaks, and America is blessed with a range of native oak trees that live in almost all possible environments. Oaks are especially desirable – these kings of the forest reach impressive proportions, and they endure, living far beyond our puny life-spans. Most oak trees need deep, moist soil to thrive and endure, but we have one impressive species that will grow in drier conditions than most others, naturally thriving on rocky slopes and in drier soils. If that sounds like your property, or if you just love adding unique and beautiful trees to your garden or woodlands, then consider the Chestnut Oak.
A native oak found through much of the east, growing on mountain ridges and rocky slopes, this majestic tree is known for its beautiful bark, steady growth, durability and its longevity. A great choice, you can plant for today, with a tree that will be 15 feet or more within 10 years, and for tomorrow, with a tree that will top 60 feet in 50 years, and could one day challenge the national champion, currently standing 144 feet tall.
The Chestnut Oak is a native oak tree of the white oak group, growing into a massive specimen with a thick trunk and spreading branches. It grows as much as 18 inches a year when young, adding about 12 inches after that, reaching 15 feet within 10 years, 60 feet in 50 years, and continuing to grow steadily, potentially living for hundreds of years. It may form a single-trunked tree, or a multi-trunked specimen, and often retains large limbs lower down close to the ground. The bark is distinctive, being very thick and dark-gray, with very deep, vertical ridges dividing it into large plates. Younger stems have an attractive silvery gray bark, especially noticeable in winter. The leaves are divided into coarse rounded teeth or lobes, creating a wave-like edge. They are slightly leathery, glossy and dark green between 4 and 6 inches long, largest on the shaded parts of the tree. In fall they turn an outstanding shade of rich gold.
Once well-established, trees will bloom in spring, often as early as April in warmer zones, or in May, with the half-open leaves. Male flowers are bunches of slender greenish-yellow catkins, and female flowers are on short stalks, developing into acorns carried singly or in pairs. The acorns are up to 1 ½ inches long, with a knobby cup covering the lower part of a smooth, oval nut. Older trees produce heavy crops of acorns, which ripen between September and November, providing valuable food for a host of wildlife, from songbirds, grouse and wild turkey to deer, mice, possums and other mammals. This tree is also a host to many important butterfly species.
The Chestnut Oak is ideal for planting on any large property, out on a lawn or in openings in woodland areas. It will grow on rocky slopes, adding diversity to existing woods. It could also be grown as an avenue along a private road. As a native tree it of course fits perfectly with existing native trees you may have growing naturally. When choosing a planting site, consider the final size of this tree. Do not plant beneath overhead wires, or within 30 feet of a building, property lines, other structures and space well away from other trees. Avoid areas likely to have construction activity in the future, as even an inch of soil added over the root zone of a mature tree can cause problems. Trees that are undisturbed will live the longest.
This tough tree is hardy from zone 4 to zone 8, growing in all but the hottest and coldest parts of the country. It is well-adapted to a wide range of conditions.
Plant your Chestnut Oak trees in full sun, or where they will grow up into the sun. Drier, well-drained soils are fine for this tree, although it will also grow in moister ground, but it still needs to be well-drained. It is also suitable for rocky ground. It is drought resistant once established
After some attention to watering during the first season or two, the Chestnut Oak is self-reliant and very durable. Little or no care is needed for established trees. Some formative pruning should be done once the tree is well-established and growing well. Remove any crowded branches in the crown, leaving an open structure with broad crotches. Maintain a clean trunk by removing any smaller side branches. Once well-structured it can be left to be cared for by nature.
Chestnut Oak, Quercus montana, grows throughout much of eastern North America, from Maine to Mississippi, and west into Michigan, and wide-spread in the Appalachians. It is typically found on hilly ridges, while it’s close relative the swamp chestnut oak, Quercus michauxii, grows in low-land areas. Both species were at one time placed together as Quercus prinus. The timber is hard and dense, and has been used for everything from railroad ties to fencing, and being rot-proof it is especially suitable for use in contact with the ground. It also makes excellent firewood. The bark is rich in tannins, and was once used for leather tanning. It remains relatively abundant in reserves and state forests.
If the idea of planting for the future appeals to you, then you should be planting a Chestnut Oak tree. Enjoy its young life and look forward to it enduring through future generations – a real gift for your great-great-grandchildren and beyond. Order now, because tree-planting is becoming more and more popular in these uncertain times.