Plants of New Jersey # 12 – Chestnut Oak

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Typical Chestnut Oak Habitat

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss the Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana). The tree is part of the Fagaceae family of plants and belongs to the White Oak sub-family. Another name for this tree is ‘Rock Oak’ due to its ability to survive where others species cannot. The tree was once used in the tanning industry as it contains more tannins than any other native Oak. The wetland indicator status for Chestnut Oak is UPL which means this tree almost always occurs in non-wetlands. Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus michauxii), which leaf is similar to the Chestnut Oak is found in freshwater wetlands but it is not the same tree.

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Chestnut Oak & Mountain Laurel

Common shrubs found with Chestnut Oak include Highbush /Lowbush Blueberry and Mountain Laurel. Chestnut Oak grows anywhere from 60-80 feet and is found (sometimes in pure stands) on rocky hillsides or where there is dry infertile soil.  This is why you can find Chestnut Oak not only in the Highlands of North Jersey but also in the Oak/Pine dominated forests in the New Jersey Pinelands. Chestnut Oak is native to the eastern forests of the US.


American Chestnut Leaf on the Left; Chestnut Oak Leaf on the Right

The leaves are similar to the American Chestnut shown in the photo above. The trees are a tough species and are able to handle drought and wind on exposed ridges of the Highlands in New Jersey. Their thick bark helps make the tree resistant to fire which is helpful in the Pinelands, an ecological community that is dependent on natural causes of fire to thrive.

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Coppice Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oaks grow readily from stumps if it is cut down. They form a coppice (multi-trunk) tree once it grows back.

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Young Chestnut Oak

The bark on young trees is smooth and becomes deeply furrowed as the tree matures.

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