Raising Your Chestnut Oak

Raising Your Chestnut Oak

About this Tree

         This tree is a native tree, the Chestnut oak (known as both Quercus prinus or Quercus montana).

Michael Dirr comments that this is “a very lovely tree which does exceedingly well in dry, rocky soil.  (I) have observed trees in parking lot islands that have prospered.  In my opinion a better landscape tree than ever considered.”  (Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, 1998.)

A Suitable Site

            Planting locations should be selected with the tree’s ultimate dimensions and needs in mind.  The chestnut oak is superb shade tree that reaches 60 to 70 ft in height with a comparable but irregular spread.  The habit is pyramidal and relatively dense. This is a tree of rocky places and is found on poor dry upland sites.  (Adapted from Michael Dirr.)

Observations in Audubon Park

Chestnut oak is very upright and tall as a young tree.  By the standards of Gilman (Illustrated Guide to Pruning), chestnut oak is the perfect easement tree, and has required minimal pruning.  It seems to grow so tall so quickly, that the leader is sometime wand-like.   In full maturity, it has a broad sculptural crown with stout limbs. Two of the healthiest and most spectacular trees in the park were a pair of mature chestnut oaks on Audubon Parkway.  One of these was struck by lightning in ~2009.  It was badly damaged and has been removed, and the other has had some decline since then.  New chestnut oaks have required little pruning and do well in full sun.  This is a tree we think should be used frequently in replanting.

You can see the remaining mature chestnut oak at 1004 Audubon Parkway, and three recent plantings at 1220 Audubon Parkway, at 3308 Robin and at 1027 Audubon Parkway on the Oriole side.  There are several large groves of chestnut oaks in Cave Hill.   Few problems have been noted, except for some leaf retention in the juvenile form.

An alternative is Swamp Chestnut Oak: it is similar but may stockier when grown in the open and is more tolerant of wet sites.   See Dirr’s Description below.  We do not know specifically of any Swamp Chestnut Oaks in Audubon Park.   This is a good tree for areas like Cross Bill. 

About this Tree

           This tree is a Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii).  The leaves are toothed, without lobes, and resemble those of chestnut oak.  Dirr characterizes the tree as ”similar to chestnut oak except it occurs in moister soils, grows larger.. This is a stately tree deserving of greater consideration in southern landscapes.”  (Adapted from Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Dirr, fifth edition.) Pictures of open grown trees have some of the solidity of Bur Oak.

A Suitable Site

         The national champion Swamp Chestnut oak is 200 ft high by 148 ft wide, in Fayette County, AL.  In the wild, it is often found in more or less swampy situation, often occurring in moist bottom

lands, river bottoms.  Seedlings show great vigor, and may grow 3-4 ft in a season.

We will be comparing these species, since we are now familiar with Chestnut oak.

A young Chestnut Oak With Strong Central Leader

The young chestnut grows so upright and tall that the top
is almost wand-like.  This tree was planted in 2007
and is 26 foot tall in 2011.


Our Remaining Mature Chestnut Oak on Audubon Parkway

This pictures was taken just as its leaves turned so that
the outline of the limbs would show through.