An Eco-sustainable World
ShrubbySpecies Plant

Chrysolepis sempervirens

Chrysolepis sempervirens

The bush Chinquapin or golden dwarf Chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens (Kellogg) Hjelmq. 1960) is a shrubby species belonging to the Fagaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Fagales Order,
Family Fagaceae,
Subfamily Quercoideae,
Genus Chrysolepis,
Species C. sempervirens.
The terms are synonymous:
– Castanea sempervirens Kellogg;
– Castanopsis chrysophylla var. sempervirens (Kellogg) A.Henry;
– Castanopsis sempervirens (Kellogg) Dudley;
– Castanopsis sempervirens (Kellogg) Dudley ex Merriam.

Etymology –
The term Chrysolepis comes from the Greek “χρυσός” (chrysós), i.e. gold and “λεπίς” (lepίs), i.e. scale, due to the numerous golden yellow glands present on the surface of various organs of the plant.
The specific epithet sempervirens comes from semper semper and from verdant virens: evergreen.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Chrysolepis sempervirens is an endemic plant in the western United States, particularly from western Washington south to the Transverse Ranges in southern California and east to Nevada.
Its habitat is that of the coastal regions of California and central-southern Oregon on soils covered by coniferous forests or in drier areas characterized by chaparral vegetation, at altitudes on average between 500 and 1800 m above sea level. descending into the more northern and humid areas at sea level or reaching up to 3600 m and exceeding the upper limit of the forest.

Description –
Chrysolepis sempervirens is a monoecious, evergreen plant that grows in nature in the form of a 20-150 (250 cm) tall shrub. It has a root system with a rhizomatous appearance which can easily differentiate suckers which then establish themselves, increasing the width of the root system and therefore also of the plant.
It has an open foliage that is wider than it is tall and with branches, horizontal to erect, smooth, gray or light brown; the young branches are covered by a thick yellowish down of peltate hairs while the buds are small, sessile and largely ovoid.
The leaves are alternate and spiral, with the blade having an oblong to oblanceolate shape with a more or less obtuse apex, 1.5-8 (10) cm long and 1.2-2.5 cm wide with the entire margin; the lamina is thick and leathery, shiny dark green above, initially pubescent below and gold to rust in colour, then more or less glabrous and glaucescent: the petiole, 10-15 mm long, is oriented forward.
The flowers are grouped in unisexual spiciform inflorescences, generally male or androgynous, erect, gathered in small groups and inserted on the branch in a subapical position; the flowers have calyxes with non-connate sepals; the male ones have a crown of 6-15 stamens surrounding a sterile pistillate while the female ones, enclosed by 1 to 3 (or more) at a time inside the dome, are inserted in the basal portion or, but rarely, are found on short spikelets only female.
The anthesis is in the period between July and August.
Pollination is anemogamous although insects can accidentally cover themselves in pollen attracted by the strong smell of musk and thus become involuntary pollinators.
The fruit, which matures in two years, has a trigonal shape; it is 8-13 mm long with hard, lignified, glabrous external integuments of a shiny brown colour; this is completely enclosed in the golden yellow, globose dome (2-6 cm in diameter) which contains 1-3 fruits and is made up of 7 valves, 5 external and 2 internal; the latter separate the fruits from each other; the valves are free and not welded and are covered with a thick layer of spines, also branched and very prickly.
Among the inflorescences you can notice globose structures, which are initially tiny and buff-colored, then reach 12-14 mm in diameter, and with a color that becomes reddish or intense red. They are galls caused by a small wasp that lays its eggs inside the inflorescent axes.

Cultivation –
Chrysolepis sempervirens is an evergreen shrub that is harvested from the wild for local use as food.
It grows in regions with a climate characterized by hot and dry summers while rainfall is concentrated in the period between autumn and spring, in southwestern North America, such as California and Oregon, in the alpine regions of the coastal ranges and the Sierra Nevada.
For its cultivation it requires limestone-free soil and prefers a sheltered, semi-shaded position and light, deep moist soil.
The plants can only be grown in oceanic and Mediterranean climates.
In North America this plant grows better at low altitudes than the other of the two genera, namely C. chrysophylla.
It is a very ornamental shrub.
The fruits, although not particularly sought after by man, are edible; Squirrels, on the other hand, are particularly fond of them.
In the second year, between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, the fruits ripen and shortly after fall from the dome remaining below the plant. They are not dormant and germination, of the underground type, occurs rapidly. Despite the fact that most of the fruits are preyed upon by animals, especially squirrels and other rodents, that its germination rate is not high and that it lives in areas frequently affected by fires, Chrysolepis sempervirens is not considered a species at risk as it can easily reproduce through the emission of root shoots.
Propagation occurs by seed which must be sown in a cold seedbed as soon as it is ripe, the seed must be protected from mice, etc.
The seed has a short viability and should not be allowed to dry out. If stored over the winter, it must be kept cool and moist. As soon as the young seedlings are large enough to handle, they should be placed in individual pots and grown in a greenhouse for at least their first winter.
Transplanting into the open field must be carried out at the end of spring or at the beginning of summer, after the last expected frosts; furthermore, in colder environments, they must be protected from the cold for their first winter.

Customs and Traditions –
Both C. sempervirens and C. chrysophylla were previously placed in the genus Castanopsis (D.Don) Spach but in 1948 Karl J.H. Hjelmquist, especially due to the differences between the cupules, separated the two American species (all the other Castanopsis are Asian) and inserted them into the genus Chrysolepis; for this reason the names Castanopsis sempervirens (Kellogg) Dudley and Castanopsis chrysophylla A. DC. they remained only as synonyms.
Chrysolepis sempervirens is known by various common names, including: Bush golden chinquapin, Sierra chinkapin.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term chinquapin or chinkapin is a word that probably derives from the Algonquin-speaking Native Americans of Virginia who, with the word chechinquamin, indicated some plants of different genera of the Fagaceae that produce urchins containing a single chestnut (C. pumila (L.) Mill. and C. dentata (Marshall) Borkh. also present in Virginia); the term was then extended to North American Castanopsis and from there also to Asian ones. The word remained in common use for the two North American species even when the genus Chrysolepis was created for them.
The fruits of this plant are edible, although little sought after by man; squirrels, on the other hand, are particularly fond of them.
These plants often produce galls caused by Dryocosmus castanopsidis, a small wasp of the Cynipidae family that lays its eggs inside the inflorescent axes of Chrysolepis sempervirens and, less frequently, of Chrysolepis chrysophylla (which lives in the same environments but without reaching the altitudinal extremes of the first).
From an ecological point of view, this species is moderately tolerant of shade and this allows it to coexist with young stands of conifers at least until the crowns of the latter completely close the forest, putting the survival of the chinquapin in crisis but Chrysolepis sempervirens vegeta even along steep slopes with chaotic piles of rocks and debris where it forms clonal nuclei of vegetation thanks to the possibility of producing shoots from the roots. This ability allows Chrysolepis sempervirens plants not only to overcome the passage of fire but also to take advantage (pyrophytism) from this in itself catastrophic factor when, dominated by populations of conifers, despite burning like other plants it can easily recover by emitting suckers from the root system remaining unscathed. Furthermore, along the stony slopes with the presence of discontinuous if not sporadic vegetation, it is very difficult for the fire to travel through them.

Preparation Method –
Chrysolepis sempervirens is a shrub that was, especially in the past, used for food purposes.
The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked; they are very sweet and have the flavor of a hazelnut.
Furthermore, the plant can have an ornamental use due to its thick foliage.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Photo source:

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *