Eastern Shore Food Lab

Castanea pumila - Chinquapin

A plant of many names, chinquapin is a delightful tree whichever way you slice it. Chinquapin nuts were also traded and sold at local markets in early America, and is now making a quiet comeback as a valuable permaculture plant. 

Scientific Name: Castanea pumila

Common Names:  Chinquapin, Allegheny chinquapin, Allegheny chinkapin, Ozark chinquapin, coastal chinquapin, dwarf chestnut.

Plant Family: Fagaceae

Etymology:  Chinkapin/Chinquapin; from the Virginia Algonquian name for the nut “chechinquamin“ (Merriam-Webster).

Castanea: L. castanea, “chestnut, chestnut-tree.” Pumila: L. pumila, “small.”

Edible Parts

Chinquapin nuts are the most widely reported edible part of this plant. Some claim they are even tastier than American chestnuts (Fire Effects Information System). The nuts were eaten raw, dried, or boiled and mashed by some native tribes (Experimental Farm Network). They were typically locally foraged, traded, and sold at market (EFN).

Historic Medicinal Uses

Analgesic; “brittle leaves heated and blown on patient for headaches,” infusion used for treatment of blisters, fevers, chills (Cherokee, NAEB). Decoction of roots used as gastrointestinal aid (Koasati, NAEB).

Documented Medicinal Uses

None found at this time. 

Additional Information

Chinquapin has been reported to have a wide array of reactions to the dreaded chestnut blight of North America, with some saying that it is highly susceptible to the blight or almost immune (FEIS). Some blame it for the loss of most chinquapin in Alabama and a major decrease in its population in the Ozarks (FEIS). The possibility of infection should be taken into consideration when designing with this plant.

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Forest Garden Layer: shrub, tree