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Plant of the Month: ‘El Capitan’ Chinquapin Oak

Chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii) oak is a New Mexico native tree that can grow very fast, up to 6′ per year, ultimately reaching 40′ tall and 25′-30′ wide. Trees vary in their fall color display. Fall color can be yellow, orangish-red, and red.

Chinquapin oaks have deep root systems so can be planted closer to structures than surface rooted trees like cottonwoods and willows. Oaks are long-lived trees with life-spans sometimes measured in centuries.El Capitan’ is a ‘Provenance Cultivar’ selected as a superior species since it has adapted to our higher elevations, whereas the Eastern or Texas Hill country Chinquapin oaks have adapted to lower elevations. ‘El Capitan’ Chinquapin oak can also tolerate a more arid low humidity climate than is typical of the species.

This oak grows best in well-drained soils, but will tolerate heavy clay. This oak is best grown with low to regular water and is hardy to USDA Zone 4. Trees That Please Nursery propagates Chinquapin Oak from acorns collected from native trees and is available in several container sizes. For additional information and more photos of the Chinquapin Oak, please visit our website at

Written by:
Stephen Sain
Staff Plant Physiologist


Anonymous said…
I first heard your boss, Michael give a lecture about 30 years ago at NMSU in Las Cruces about Oaks that are native to the Southwest and why they are the best choice for shade trees in our region. I've since heard him many more times across the region talk on the same subject and I've read his published papers. After all this time I'm still surprised that it hasn't become common knowledge, or when Oaks are finally designed into a landscape by professional designer/architects they don't use a New Mexico native species or demand that the trees come from Michael's nursery. I know it's not because of lack of inventory or price. Case in point, in recent weeks street landscaping is being installed on the new Lead and Coal Avenue project, but only a few oaks, none of which are native species grown by a local grower such as Trees That Please. It's too bad, as 30 years has passed and Michael is still a maverick! My yard is full of your beautiful trees, please keep it up.
30 years, wow you are sure dating me. If you want, please send me a private message as I'd like to know who you are.

Your right in that I said it then and I still say it, the oaks that are native to our Chihuahuan Desert Edge foothills are better suited to our new generation of water conservation minded landscaping than any other tree species. We can love our London Plane Sycamore, Honey Locust, Ash and Hackberry trees, as all are beautiful in their own right, however all are native to climates that are wetter than what we can provide and most grow naturally only in river bottom ecotones where sub soil moisture is abundant. Plant them here and give them a sparse diet of water and a soil that will not give up its minerals because they are tied up in high pH conditions, can only result in a poor situation. And that's why you drive around Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces and see an urban forest in decline. When selecting a tree for your high and dry landscape needs, you need to have some discrimination however, because some species like our wonderful Chinquapin and Burr oaks have a huge native range extending to the East Coast, yet only the genetics from our arid state are going to have the physiological characteristics that allow them to grow here, performing to the expectations that I brag about. Pick a Burr oak from Ohio, or a Chinquapin Oak from the Hill Country of Texas and you will not get the same tolerable limits of what our climate, soil and water availability can provide! This is what sets Trees That Please apart from the industry, in that we collect our own seed, from known sources and grow them out so that they will be as tough as possible for our clients. This production system is also contingent upon us using a biological fertility management process that mimics Nature, which is why Soil Secrets was developed in the first place. A tree growing wild in the foothills of the Manzano Mountains or any other 'Desert Edge Woodland' of the Chihuahuan Desert Region, will have a mycorrhizal relationship with a beneficial fungus called Mycorrhizae, which improves the trees ability to find water and mineral nutrients 10 fold over a tree lacking that advantage. Without exception, trees grown with constant water soluble fertilizer feeding, called blue water in our industry, will be junkies to fertilizer feeding and will not have that same toughness that our trees will have. Again, that's 100% of the trees being sold at the local discount box stores. Therefore we wish our clients will continue the same program we use, once they take one of our trees home. We can't guarantee success 100% of the time with 100% of our clients, but we can sure try, by providing them with the knowledge and the product that work, and that's Soil Secrets - Earth Magic and Protein Crumblies.

Thank you again for your kind and interesting comment on our blog. I also encourage you to visit our Soil Secrets blog with additional education on soil science is provided.

Michael Martin Meléndrez
Managing Member of Soil Secrets LLC
Managing Member of Soil Secrets Worldwide LLC
Founder and Owner of Trees That Please farm and nursery
Founder and Curator for the Arboretum Tomé private collection
505 550-3246
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Wow just bought my first home in Santa Fe n want 2-3 of these to plant. I'm part Maidu from n Cali n we looooove oaks n acorn mush. Black oak was our fave but I think chinq will work best in my yard

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