As I mentioned in my post of 07-19-17 (Bush Chinquapin), the bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) and the tree chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla) are often difficult to identify. Not only are these two species morphologically similar, their growth forms often overlaps. There can be shrubby tree chinquapins and tall bush chinquapins. However, there was no mistaking this group of tree chinquapins Leonard and I found along the Old Growth Trail in Oregon Caves National Monument in June. As can be seen in the photograph, they were definitely trees.
Tree chinquapins are endemic to the Pacific Coast and can be found from Southern Washington through Western Oregon to West Central California. Growing in coastal forests, chaparral and woodlands, these members of the Beech Family (Fagaceae) generally prefer milder temperatures. In good soil with adequate moisture, tree chinquapins can grow to about 150 feet and have a straight trunk and conical-shaped crown. At higher elevations, with poor soil and/or drier conditions they more closely resemble shrubs. The shrubby form can become a tree if growth conditions improve. Tree chinquapins can live to 500 years.
The bark of young tree chinquapins is thin and smooth. With age the bark thickens and becomes platy. The leathery green leaves are dark green on the upper side, golden on the reverse and are folded along the midrib. Male flowers are borne in leaf axils with clusters of female flowers beneath. The fruit is a spiny bur containing 1 to 4 edible, dry nuts. Humans and small mammals, particularly squirrels and chipmunks, enjoy the fruits.
The quality of tree chinquapin wood varies depending on its growing conditions. Generally it is heavy, strong and light brown with a pinkish tinge. Tree chinquapin wood is not used commercially.
The photograph of young tree chinquapin bark was taken on the trail to Babyfoot Lake in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of Oregon, again in June.