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Chrysolepis chrysophylla Burr.JPG
Chrysolepis chrysophylla
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Chrysolepis

Chrysolepis is a small genus in the beech family Fagaceae, endemic to the western United States. Its two species have the common name chinquapin. The genus occurs from western Washington south to the Transverse Ranges in Southern California, and east into Nevada.


Chrysolepis are evergreen trees and shrubs with simple, entire (untoothed) leaves with a dense layer of golden scales on the underside (hence the genus name, from Greek chryso-, yellow, and lepis, scale) and a thinner layer on the upper side; the leaves persist for 3–4 years before falling.

The fruit is a densely spiny cupule containing usually three sweet, edible nuts, eaten by the indigenous peoples. The fruit also provides food for birds and wildlife.

Chrysolepis is related to the subtropical southeast Asian genus Castanopsis (in which it was formerly included), but differs in the nuts being triangular and fully enclosed in a sectioned cupule, and in having bisexual catkins. Chrysolepis also differs from another allied genus Castanea (chestnuts), in nuts that take 14–16 months to mature (3–5 months in Castanea), evergreen leaves and the shoots having a terminal bud.

Chrysolepis chrysophylla foliage, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Northern California.
Note undersides of foliage are a bright yellow.


There are two species of ChrysolepisChrysolepis chrysophylla and Chrysolepis sempervirens — which like many species in the related genera of Castanopsis and Castanea are called chinquapin, also spelled "chinkapin".

Chrysolepis chrysophylla grows at lower elevations than C. sempervirens, from sea level to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), rarely 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). The leaves are 6–12 centimetres (2.4–4.7 in) long, with an acute (sharp-pointed) apex. The bark is thick and rough.

Chrysolepis sempervirens grows mostly at high elevation, 1,000–3,000 metres (3,300–9,800 ft) altitude. The leaves are smaller, 4–8 centimetres (1.6–3.1 in) long, with an obtuse (blunt-pointed or rounded) apex. The bark is thin and smooth.

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