Saving an American Treasure
"The Ozark Chinquapin nuts were delicious and we waited for them to fall like you would wait on a crop of corn to ripen,….. they were that important. Up on the hilltop the nuts were so plentiful that we scooped them up with flat blade shovels and loaded them into the wagons to be used as livestock feed, to eat for ourselves, and to sell. Deer, bears, turkeys, squirrels, and a variety of other wildlife fattened up on the sweet crop of nuts that fell every year. But, starting in the 1950’s and 60’ all of the trees started dying off. Now they are all gone and no one has heard of them."
Quote from an 93-year old Missouri outdoorsman describing the trees before the chestnut blight reached the Ozark Mountains.
The Ozark Chinquapin (Castanea ozarkensis), sometimes called Ozark Chinkapin or Ozark Chestnut, was drought tolerant, grew to heights of 65 feet, 2-3 feet diameter, and grew on acidic dry rocky soils on hilltops and slopes. It bloomed in late May- early June after the threat of frost.
The trees produced a bounty of sweet nuts every year without fail, and was sought as a nutritious food source by humans and wildlife. The wood was highly prized because it was rot resistant and made excellent railroad ties and fence post.
Now the trees are gone.
Logging practices and later the chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) wiped out the Ozark Chinquapin. Today only blighted stumps remain of this once important Ozark tree. Sprouts emerge from the stumps, many managing to produce some nuts, but within 4-6 years the blight again strikes killing the sprouts, starting the blighted cycle all over again. The number of surviving stumps and the historic range of the tree continue to shrink.
Our goal is to restore the Ozark Chinquapin to its native range. We are working to establish a viable seed base and through research and cross-pollination of surviving trees develop a 100% pure Ozark Chinquapin that is blight
resistant. Seed will be available to anyone who wants to help reestablish this tree to its native range.
We are an organization of outdoorsmen and women who do not want to lose this once important tree of our Ozark forest. The Ozark forests we have today are different than the forest we had in the past. But, if we work together we can make our Ozark forest a better place for wildlife and our children to inherit.
Ozark Chinquapin Foundation