Ramble On

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Luray's Chinquapin Oak - on the Hawksbill Greenway

One of the landmarks along the Hawksbill Greenway in Luray is a little sign that points out a large Chinquapin Oak, or Chestnut Oak, that sits on a bluff overlooking the area. The oak is about 60 feet above the path and on private property, so you can't really go visit it, but it is definitely significant enough to merit this recognition.

The tree is at least 250 years old - at least 50 years older than the town of Luray itself, which was chartered in 1812, as you can read on the sign, which also describes the size of the tree. From the vantage point of this sign on the trail, you can just see the tree above. It is more or less in the center of this photo, not appearing as the tallest of the trees, but more in the background - the one set back from the edge, with the branches that spread out more, forming the trademark crown of this species.

I thought I might look a bit more into the tree variety on Wikipedia, and found three items of particular interest (the entry there used a variant on the spelling, also, possibly due to the geography the author writes from, Chinquapin sounds to me like it is derived from a Mid-Atlantic Native American word, and the spelling would be typical in this area)

  • Chinkapin oak is generally found on well-drained upland soils derived from limestone or where limestone outcrops occur. Occasionally it is found on well-drained limestone soils along streams.
  • The Chinkapin Oak is especially known for its sweet acorns. The acorns are sweet and palatable. Indeed, the nuts contained inside of the thin shell are among the sweetest of any oak; they taste excellent even when eaten raw. These acorns provide an excellent source of food for both wildlife and people. The acorns are eaten by squirrels, mice, voles, chipmunks, deer, turkey, and other birds.
  • Like the other members of the white oak family, the wood of the Chinkapin oak is a durable hardwood prized for many types of construction.

Most of the oaks on the Hawksbill Cabin property are white oaks, and I am pretty sure we likely have one or two of these somewhere in the area - maybe on the back lots along the ridge. I'll check it out, and when I do, maybe I'll test the acorns.

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