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Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)

Life history

Species overview

Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in oak savannas, edges of woods, and banks along water. Blooming occurs May; fruiting occurs late May through September. This species can be identified year-round.

Synonyms: Quercus acuminata, Quercus alexanderi, Quercus brayi, Quercus muhlenbergii f. alexanderi, Quercus muehlenbergii, Quercus prinus var. acuminata, Quercus prinoides var. acuminata


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from other oaks by leaves with sharp teeth but lacking sinuses. Although leaves of American beech (Fagus grandifolia are similar to Chinquapin oak, the former has smooth bark while the latter has shallowly fissured and flaky bark.
  • Flower characteristics: Monoecious, wind pollinated; male flowers borne in catkins developing from the leaf axils of the previous years; female flowers developing from the axils of the current year's leaves.
  • Fruit characteristics: Acorns about 2 cm long, almost sessile or on an axillary stalk to 8 mm long; acorn caps hemispheric or shallowly cupped, 4 to 12 mm deep by 8 to 22 mm wide, enclosing from 1/4 to 1/2 of the nut.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves oblong, 7.5 to 15 cm in length and 3.8 to 7.5 cm wide, coarsely and sharply toothed, thick and firm, light yellow-green above to silvery white below.


  • Blooming phenology: May
  • Fruiting phenology: late May through September
  • Optimum time to identify: This species can be identified year-round


  • Growth form: Tree
  • Vegetative reproduction: Stump sprouts readily
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Quercus macrocarpa, Q. rubra, Q. alba, Q. bicolor, Fagus grandifolia, Ostrya virginiana, Fraxinus pensylvanica, Acer saccharum, Ulmus americana, Ulmus thomasii. Across its range, Q muhlenbergii is known to hybridize with many other oak species. This species is increasingly intolerant of shade with age.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Quercus muehlenbergii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1S2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in oak savannas, edges of woods, and banks along water.
  • Soils: Calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Chinquapin Oak. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Chinquapin Oak. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Maintain partial canopy to encourage woodland species; avoid closed-canopy conditions.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).


Chinquapin Oak Photo.

Photo © Greg Gardner.

Chinquapin Oak Photo.

Photo © Michaela Molter.

Chinquapin Oak Photo.

Photo © Steven J. Baskauf.

Chinquapin Oak Photo.

Photo © Gerrit Davidse.

Chinquapin Oak Photo.

Photo © Steven J. Baskauf.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition