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Allegheny Chinquapin – Castanea pumila

Resembles the American Chestnut but is smaller and usually occurs in dry soils. Shrub or small tree, rarely to 50 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter. Its leaves are not as sharply tapered, are 3 to 5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, covered with gray hairs on underside and on stem. Smaller nuts, 08 of an inch in diameter, are borne singly in husks 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Flowers in early summer. Many tiny whitish male flowers in upright catkins. Bark is reddish-brown, furrowed into scaly plates.

Habitat: dry sandy and rocky uplands, in oak and hickory forests. Less susceptible to chestnut blight fungus that devastated the American Chestnut.. While it does blight to some degree, it continues to send out suckers that will produce fruit.

Captain John Smith published the first record of this nut in 1612, observing its use by the Native Americans, who made an infusion of the leaves to relieve headaches and fevers. The bark, leaves, wood, and seed husks of the plant contain tannin. The wood is hard and durable and is sometimes used in fences and fuel, but the plant is too small for the wood to be of commercial importance.

 

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