Chinquapin is a small tree or shrub native to the Southeastern US, that is closely related to the chestnut. It makes small sweet nuts that are said to taste like the American chestnuts, which were wiped out by Asian chestnut blight. These are considered native to FL, but they grow differently than the locals. These plants can form a tree and produce a lot of nuts, whereas the locals rarely exceed three feet in height and are poor producers. The locals variety was once considered a separate specie, called C. Alnifolia.
Soil: Accepts a wide variety of soils. It is usually found in well drained sandy soils of North Florida. It is much more common in the slightly richer soils north of Gainesville (around Alachua and High Springs), as a remnant of a nearly extinct community called “Upland Pine Forest”. Some of our poorest sandy soils, where “Sandhill” communities exist, usually lack chinquapins, possibly because of the poor soil. (Areas like Archer, Ocala, Keystone, Hawthorne, Interlachen). I expect you can still grow chinquapins in sandhill type soils, but it might benefit from a little assistance, such as water and soil improvement.
Water: drought tolerant.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Cold: tolerates cold.
Pruning: The source of our seeds recommends pruning the tree to a single stem.
Pests: Susceptible to Phytophthora root rot, and may have some sensitivity to Chestnut Blight. They are also favored by deer.
Other problems: The nuts are small. Trees are gendered. Female trees produce fruit and males are needed for pollination. We will not know the genders of our trees until they are old enough to flower.
Harvesting, storage, and preparation: The nuts should fall out of the burrs when they become ripe. Roast them like chestnuts.
Photo by Joe Schibig