The Ozark Chinquapin (Castanea ozarkensis), sometimes called Ozark Chinkapin or Ozark Chestnut, is a drought tolerant hardwood tree that grew to heights of 65 feet and 2-3 feet in diameter. It inhabited the rocky upper slopes and ridge tops of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Eastern Texas. It was also found in Northern Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. It may have made up to 20% of the species found in the temperate forest west of the Mississippi River. It produced prolific nut crops that both humans and wildlife found delicious. It bloomed in late May to early June after the threat of frost had passed.
The trees produced a bounty of sweet nuts every year without fail, and was sought as a nutritious food source by Native Americans, early settlers and wildlife. The wood was highly prized because it was rot resistant and made excellent lumber for barns, furniture, railroad ties and fence post.
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.
The chestnut blight (Cyphonectria parasitica), imported in nursery stock from Asia in 1904, devastated the American Chestnut, Allegheny Chinquapin and the Ozark Chinquapin, all species from the Castanea family. The blight fungus ends up killing the mature trees down to the roots. Fortunately the blight cannot live in the soil and the Castanea species can sprout from the old stump roots. Unfortunately, the sprouts usually only grow for 10-15 years before the blight kills it back to the roots. Stump sprouts are found throughout the Ozark Chinquapin’s original range in sufficient number so the species does not need to be listed as an Endangered Species.