Chinkapin (Pumila)

The Chinkapin (Pumila) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) . Leaves are not retained year to year.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Economic: Chinkapin nuts and wood are sold commercially. The wood is light, hard, close-grained, and strong. It is used for fence posts and fuel although it is not timbered because of its small stature and scattered occurrence.

Ethnobotanic: The Cherokee Indians used dried leaves as washes to alleviate headaches, fevers, chills, cold sweats, and fever blisters. The Koasati Indians used the roots of chinkapin as a decoction for stomachaches. Food source: Chinkapin nuts are palatable to humans as well as wildlife. They have a sweet flavor and are often preferred over the fruit of the American chestnut.

Landscaping: Chinkapin is sometimes used for landscaping as a small ornamental tree or shrub. Its flowers are attractive but have an unpleasant odor.

Restoration: Chinkapin can be used to rehabilitate disturbed sites because of its ability to adapt to harsh conditions. The threat of chestnut blight often deters this decision by land managers.

Wildlife: Squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, white-tailed deer, blue jays, woodpeckers and other birds consume chinkapin nuts. White-tailed deer browse the foliage.

General Characteristics

General: Beech Family (Fagaceae). Chinkapin is a monoecious small tree or large shrub that grows to be 2 to 5 m tall. The twigs are densely hairy (tomentose) when young, becoming shiny brown with densely reddish-hairy buds. The leaves are alternate, simple, short-stemmed, prominently veined, oblong with fine pointed teeth or bristles, up to 15 cm long, and tomentose on the lower surface. Male flowers are borne in the leaf axils, elongated, yellow to white, clustered, and have a strong odor. Female flowers are rounder with a diameter up to 3 cm. The fruit is a spiny bur that houses a single nut. Male flowers appear in May and June, female flowers later in the season. Fruits mature in autumn and winter.


Chinkapin is rare in its range. It is threatened in Kentucky, endangered in New Jersey, and has been extirpated from most of Alabama by chestnut blight.

General Upkeep and Control

Chinkapin plants form extensive clones where it has been burned annually. It resprouts vigorously following top-kill by fire. It will also regenerate upon overstory removal in stands where it had once been out-competed by canopy trees.

Chinkapin is not resistant to herbicides such as 24,5-T, bromacil, dicamba, picloram, and silvex. It may resprout following herbicide treatments.

Pests and Potential Problems Chinkapin is moderately resistant to chestnut blight, but fewer trees are reported each year due to the inhibitory effects of the fungus.

Seeds and Plant Production Chinkapin plants and seeds are not commonly produced commercially. It reproduces readily from seed. Collect seeds immediately after the spiny husks have split open to expose the nut. Seeds that are planted in the fall show good germination (>90%) while seeds stored over winter dry out and germinate at reduced rates (<50%). Seedlings will produce nuts in the third growing season, with large nut crops occurring during the fifth and sixth season. Chinkapin also sprouts from rhizomes, forming dense colonies.

Plant Basics
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Duration Perennial
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Physical Characteristics
Displays Fall Colors No
Flower Conspicuousness No
Gardening Characteristics
Cold Stratification Required No
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 0–0 pH
Precipitation Range 0–0 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Minimum Frost-Free Days 0 day(s)
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA