Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Girl With The Chinquapin Eyes

The Girl With The Chinquapin Eyes
Tipper 1973

Everyone who guessed yesterday’s what is it was a Chinquapin was right.

When I was young, people always told me I had Chinquapin eyes. As you can see from the photo my eyes are dark dark brown and rather large. Since I was backward and shy throughout my growing up years I’m sure my solemn appearance added to the Chinquapin eye effect.

Chinquapin trees

I knew what Chinquapins were, I had heard stories from Pap. He told me stories about how Chinquapins used to grow throughout the mountains, stories about kids eating them on the way home from school and stories about boys throwing the burs at one another for fun.

growing Chinquapins in western nc

Even though I knew what Chinquapins were from an early age, I had never seen a real one, only the two that stare back at me when I look in the mirror.

A few weeks ago when I wrote about the Pawpaw Granny and Pap gave me the subject of Chinquapins came up in the comment section. Kenneth Roper mentioned he had three Chinquapin trees at his place if I wanted to see them. That’s all the invitation I needed.

Chinquapin bush

Kenneth’s Father planted the trees in the 60s. Kenneth doesn’t know if they are the native variety or not. Their size makes me think they’re not you can get an idea of how large they are in the photo where you can see The Deer Hunter and Kenneth standing between two trees.

Pap told me the Chinquapins of his youth were small trees, like an Apple or Pear tree. I asked Pap if the Chestnut blight also killed the Chinquapins. He said he didn’t know if it was the blight or the spread of people.

Chinkapin or chinkypin
The outer bur of the chinquapin turns brown and falls off the tree as the nut ripens. Once they fall to the ground it’s hard to beat the squirrels and other animals to them. Kenneth said his Father used to gather the still green burs and set them to dry beside the woodstove.

Chinkypin or chinquapin nut or chestnut bush

It tickled me to death to get to see a real chinquapin, but is also made me sad.

At the beginning of this post I said people told me I had Chinquapin eyes when I was young. Since the trees are gone from here many people don’t even know about Chinquapins. And if they don’t know about them they sure can’t tell me or any other little black eyed kid they have Chinquapin eyes.

Yet there’s hope.

No one had told me I had Chinquapin eyes in forever, until a little over a year ago when I met Jim Casada. One of the first things he said was a remark about my Chinquapin eyes. He made me feel like I was 6 years old again hiding behind Granny’s dress or Pap’s legs.

Those old timey words are still out there, the readers of the Blind Pig & the Acorn are evidence of that. We just need to keep talking about them and keep using them so the next generation will remember them too.




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  • Reply
    John W
    November 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I found my way here from a search for “Chinquapin Eyes” something a girl I know has. I was contemplating whether someone out there besides me is familiar with the term or not before I give her the compliment! I am in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. These nuts grow from bushes in thickets, most often along fences or clearing edges. I suspect the “trees” others are referring to are some form of dwarf chestnut tree. The little chinquapins are more round, but do grow in similar burrs at the same time of year as the chestnuts. They are still around in this area, unlike the American Chestnut trees that once stood here.

  • Reply
    Robert Nethken
    October 18, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    I have a problem my chinquine tree is very healthy. Produces lots of burs but the nut do not fill, there is nothing you can eat. Why?

    • Reply
      October 20, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Robert-I don’t know the answer to your problem, but hopefully someone who does will chime in with the answer!

  • Reply
    Charles Howell
    August 25, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    “She’s a Chinquapin Woman, Born in the Wood
    She Grabbed my Heart Just Because She Could
    She Ain’t Lettin go till the Cows come Home
    That Chinquapin Woman”s Bad to the Bone

    Born in the Mountains of North Caroline
    Way up there,
    near the Timber Line
    Ask her How’s She doin, She’ll Say “I’m Fine.”
    That Chinquapin Woman, She’s a Friend of Mine

    A little Prickley on the surface, She’s made that way
    I hear she’s a “Caution” Best stay away
    But the Boys all know, She’s got her Pride
    That Chinquapin Woman’s all Sweet inside

  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Eyvonne-thank you for the great comment! I so appreciate you taking time to add the valuable info. This post is several years old but I’ll see if I can get another nut and give it to our local college. Hope you have a great evening and I hope you drop back by the Blind Pig often!

  • Reply
    Eyvonne Hammonds
    April 2, 2017 at 12:26 am

    HI! I just stumbled upon your blog. My husband and I just bought a farm in Alabama and I was looking for some blight resistant chinquapins to plant, because I too was called “chinquapin-eyed” growing up, which may or may not be why I so love the little nuts!
    Anyhow, I just thought I would share with you what little I learned about chinquapins from college (I majored in biology and did a paper on the chestnut blight in sophomore year).
    Most of what I learned has already been posted by others above, but a couple of things not mentioned:
    The blight is still around and going strong, unfortunately, but chinapins are more resistant to it than regular American chestnuts. It still wiped them mostly out, just more slowly.
    Now days, the remaining ones are even more resistant, though, and most people can successfully grow them if growing conditions are practically perfect. Poor growing conditions will lower the immune system of the plants and allow the blight to kill them.
    More importantly, I would REALLY like to encourage you to take that nut your friend gave you to a local college and have them verify that it is indeed a chinquapin, because one thing I know for certain is that, unlike the chestnut, the chinquapin nut has no flattening to the sides. The chinquapin nut looks more like a little acorn, with it’s circumpherence perfectly round (which relates to the “chinquapin-eye” descriptor, in that if you look at the top of the nut it has a black dot like a pupil around which is a lighter band of red-brown like an iris).
    From the picture of the nut provided to you by your friend, it seems that your gifted nut has a somewhat flattened side. I true chinquapin would not have that. Now there are a very few stands of American chestnuts that escaped the blight (but are still in danger from the blight and/or in danger from the blight), but it is possible that your friend’s trees are natural hybrids with a higher resistance or a naturally occurring resistant American chestnut. Which, if that is the case, then there are a LOT of academics who have been looking for exactly what you are holding in that picture for a very long time!
    Please consider taking it to your local college or asking your friend to take one to his local college! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and he had the answer to the ending the American chestnut blight in your hands all along?
    Eyvonne Hammonds
    Fruithurst, AL

  • Reply
    October 19, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    what a doll you were and are 🙂

  • Reply
    October 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    What a lovely post so nostalgic and true…. and I learned something new also!
    You were very cute, Tipper, with those big Chinquapin eyes!

  • Reply
    Jen Y
    September 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I remember eating chinquapins when I was a little girl in the late 60’s early 70’s in WV. Here in the Ozarks they’re trying to grow them again. You can read about it here.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    September 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Cool story!!! I’ve never heard of them. But you sure did have beautiful eyes!

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    September 26, 2011 at 11:02 am

    You sure were cute…..
    Love the folklore here….
    See you this weekend – I hope.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2011 at 8:42 am

    How cute is that little chinquapin-eyed girl!
    I’ve never heard of or seen them. My first thought was chestnut. I love chestnuts and I haven’t seen one of those trees in years.
    And I didn’t know what a hedge apple was till a couple of years ago when I found them growing along a creek not far from here.
    You should stick some of those chinquapins in the ground and see if they’ll grow at your place.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Yes-chinquapins are edible. They taste very similar to chestnuts!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    September 25, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I am happy to know what this thing was. You have beautiful eyes and such a beautiful child, too. Very interesting post.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2011 at 12:35 am

    i have never heard of these before, are they edible? i have a pretty large chestnut tree in my yard, however we never get any nuts as the cockatoos eat them all

  • Reply
    September 25, 2011 at 12:10 am

    That looks, for all the world, like a chestnut – the burr, the nut, and all. I wonder what our dad would think of Chinquapin’s since he restarted many a chestnut tree strain over again after the blight got many of them, once having the tree with the largest trunk circumference and drip line circumference in Pennsylvania til a storm got it.
    What a wonderful tree that was too. I swear it was 20 degrees cooler beneath it on a hot day.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Very nice story and I agree about your eyes. You know when I was much younger I fished with my Papa and Uncle(s) and we used to catch what they called Chinquapins…a type of bream…they had dark eyes as well..

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I still remember the exact places in Watauga County where we gathered chinquapins. Never on a tree that big, they were found on bushes similar to wild hazelnuts. One of these days I will have to go back to see if the bushes are still there.

  • Reply
    Sherie Rowe
    September 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Waht a wonderful memory! Just to let youknow, we live near a little community here called Chinquapin Grove….

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Dear Tipper,
    I didn’t get time yesterday to respond to your “Blind Pig…” entry to guess what you pictured.
    But I thought—not posting, of course—“Where did Tipper find a chinquapin now to photograph? I assumed they went out, like the chestnuts of old, with the blight that hit the chestnut trees!”
    So I was glad to see today’s post, and find out that I did, indeed, “guess right,” even though I had not responded. It was a chinquapin!
    I have good memories of gathering chinquapins. We had bushes along our fence between our garden and the road, not too far from the house, and also in the woods nearby. My younger brother Bluford and I enjoyed gathering them when we were children, but I can remember, too, how the prickly burrs hurt if we stepped on them barefooted (although by fall harvest of the nuts, we usually had on shoes!)
    In addition to gathering chinquapins, we also had some chestnut trees. But the largest of all the chestnut trees in our community, and the last to succumb to the blight in our area, was on the trail “across the mountain” to Grandpa Bud Collins’s home. I can see it in my mind’s eye now, the tall chestnut tree and its full crop of burrs opening and our hurrying to gather them before the squirrels buried them all.
    My father also told us of how plentiful both chestnuts and chinquapins were in his childhood and youth. They went to the mountains to gather them by the bushels-ful. In fact, they not only saved them to roast at the fire in wintertime, but they took sacks of them to market in Gainesville, hauling them with other farm produce in covered wagons on the Logan Turnpike that led from Blairsville to Cleveland at Tesnatee Gap. These nuts of the forest were one of the “money crops” to bring in a little more cash, or to barter at the market in Gainesville for items not grown on the farm.
    How I loved to hear of those times of yore and with what hard work they saved what they could of anything that would give them a better living.
    Thank you, “Chinquapin Eyes” for showing us how a chinquapin burr looks—and for having eyes that look with great favor upon a rich way of Appalachian life that formed the roots we love!

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    That was supposed to be Kate Wolf – Across the Great Divide. Bad typing and the auto-complete led to wrong name

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    September 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    gosh tipper i could just give you a big hug and kiss those cute cheeks.. now you know how i drive my grandkids crazy.. suprised they still have cheeks left..
    i thought it looked familiar to the buckeye pods we have around here.. love hearing all the lore you find to share with us.. it truly challenges one.. to get looking online to figure it out. lol im not lucky like you with a pappy to share facts so i can pass on to my kids.. 🙂
    may you and all the readers have a lovely fall weekend..
    sending big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    September 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Well I just had to comment again as I just learned something new. I googled chestnut and chinquapin to see what the difference is and lookie:
    Some species of the Chestnuts are called Chinquapins.
    Chinquapins are darker colored from other chestnuts from what I am seeing in most of the google images (beware of some of the images).

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    September 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I didn’t see the post yesterday until now along with this one. The community I grew up in, in upper northeast TN, was called Chinquapin Grove and known mainly by the shortened name of just Chinquapin. The elementary school I went to was even had Chinquapin in the name. As you may have guessed, that’s where the name came from — the trees which must have been abundant in that area at one time. I remember friends of my parents having a few trees in her yard as well as a few others in the community. Mom and Dad usually ended up with a few bags or so each year to roast like one would a chestnut. We are blessed to have access to 3 chestnuts trees and have been gathering nuts for a few weeks now.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Bill Burnett’s mention of the chestnut tree (it was a Chinese chestnut) which stood in Daddy’s yard evokes an curious link to the Brasstown lass with the chinquapin eyes.
    Daddy finally had the tree cut after it had grown so big it threatened to shade out all his garden. It was by far the biggest Chinese chestnut I’ve ever seen. Brother Don was present at some point in the proceedings, and he may have been involved in taking the tree down. At any rate, he had the foresight to save a couple of sections cut from near the base of the tree.
    After they dried and cured for a number of years, he recently found the perfect use for them. He had a lady somewhere over Andrews way (I think) get them nice and smooth, and what followed was the production of an enduring memento. Lots of loving treatment of the wood, along with the painting of an angel by the angel of Brasstown.
    Talk about serendipitous linkages–to me that’s about as fine as they get. Now Don and his wife, Susan, have something to provide a grand memory of Dad, of fall days gathering chestnuts, of the chestnut dressing Mom always made at Thanksgiving (my wife, Ann, still makes it every year), and of a connection to Tipper.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    So interesting! My great-uncle Ben was once describing a great, or great-great aunt of his, who was probably half Cherokee from Polk County, TN – as having piercing, “shiny black chinquapin eyes”. And his eyes were that way, too. Since then, I’ve always wanted to see a chinquapin.
    Thanks for sharing your story and this cute pic!

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Loved the story of your eyes. That is a blessing to have such.
    After living for 20 years in the Ozark National Forest, I can tell you that I only saw one chinquapin tree. The old timers said they started dying out about the time the blight hit the other chestnut trees. I was encouraged to find sprouts coming up from the roots of the old trees. As far as size goes, this old tree was not large; probably 20 feet but not much more. I am saddened to see old, native plants dying out and am equally sad to see non-natives introduced. Will the non-natives spread? Will they become invasive? Who knows but your story was a good one.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    September 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

    You DO have chinquapin eyes! 🙂
    I have not heard that saying in forever.
    I am a bit mortified that I didn’t recognize that as a chinquapin, especially since I blogged about them last month and went on the hunt for some to eat. 😀

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I’ve been enjoying your blog and playlist the last couple weeks now. I look forward to seeing the Blind pig gang at JCC. I particularly liked Undone in Sorrow and There is a Time. Does Blind Pig gang or the Pressley Girls do Kate moss’s Across the Great Divide?

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for helping to answer a question for me. Our place in Transylvania County is bristling this time of year with what looked to me like chestnuts, but I knew that the native chestnuts had been just about wiped out years ago and these trees are all small, more like bushes. I did some web browsing and am now convinced that we have quite a collection of probably native Chinquapin on our property. I say native, because until only a few years ago, the mountain was completely isolated from people, not likely that anything living there was not there to begin with.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 24, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Wonderful story. You were such a sweet looking child with those beautiful eyes and I know you have grown into a kind and sweet person…
    My Grandaughter has large dark brown eyes that almost take over her face..She always shys away when we mention them..ha
    I thought a Chinkapin was a smaller tree with smaller burs and nuts and also darker and more shiney..
    I remember as a child my Mother and I walking in the woods near her home. She pointed out a area where the Chinkapin tree used to be, the one she remembered gathering nuts from…It was gone at that time…but she said there were some others, but due to the snakey area she just turned and took me back the little path we went down..She was actually looking for a Sweet Shrub sprout to take back to Tennessee…
    Thanks for the memories Tipper..

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 9:08 am

    you finally found something totally new to me, I have not heard of these or ever seen one. my hubby has big brown eyes to.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 24, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I’m touched by the wonderful feeling of being six again — those karmic links of wonderful times gone by, even for a few seconds, are reaffirming and sustaining and, for me, usually open a floodgate of other memories.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Commonly called ‘chinky-pin’ in my neighborhood. I know where two trees are, much smaller acorns than your picture.
    Don’t see then often here any more.
    My daughters all have those deep dark chinky-pin eyes.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 24, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Tipper–I’m sort of relieved that the burr was from a chinquapin, because you had me wondering whether I had somehow spent a lifetime wandering in and musing about the mountains only to miss something. As I said though, that’s the biggest chinquapin burr I’ve ever seen.
    I think Ken has provided an explanation–I suspect that the trees his father planted were specially bred varieties which produce larger nuts. The ones I know of always have a single nut and it is quite small–slightly smaller than a marble (there’s another subject for you sometime, the seemingly vanished joys of playing marbles).
    Of course I’ve now got to start searching to see if I can find and plant some of these giants of the chinquapin tribe.
    One other thing–someone wondered about blight affecting chinquapins. It does, just not in quite so virulent a degree as is the case with American chestnuts..
    Keep those chinquapin eyes shining and that inquisitive mind probing.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    p.s. As to the Chestnut Burr that got me in the trouble I spoke of yesterday I picked it up out of the road while walking to Fairlane Sportswear to catch a ride home with my Dad after a Football Game. The tree itself grew in Jim Casada’s Dad’s yard so Jim, Commodore was partially responsible for my faux-pas.

  • Reply
    Jerry M. in south Arkansas
    September 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

    We still have one chinquapin tree on our farm and it’s the only one I know of anywhere around here. Most of them in this area died many years ago from the blight. The squirrels love them.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 24, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I would venture a guess that due to the size of the trees , the burrs and the nut that these aren’t native chinquapins as they tended to be more of a shrub and I’ve never seen a “wild” chinquapin as large as the ones in your pictures. The chinquapin oak is an oak tree shose leaves resemble a chinquapin’s, that is why they bear acorns, they are not related to chinquapins. There are several varieties of chinquapins available from nurserys. Some of these “Domestic” varieties grow really large. Aaron’s Nursery has a “Chinquapin Georgiaana” which is supposed to grow well in our area, best planting time for them is in the spring.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 24, 2011 at 8:18 am

    The Angel of Brasstown with the soulful chinquapin eyes!
    I can only once remember seeing chinquapins. It was my daddy or my grandaddy who showed them to me.
    My recollection of them is that they grew on a bush and were far more trouble trouble than they were worth getting them out of those shells. My memory also tells me that more than one nut was in each prickly pod. Is that correct, Tipper?
    It’s nice to have a mystery to solve!

  • Reply
    B f
    September 24, 2011 at 8:01 am

    well you are blessed to have those eyes .and i was puzzled about this queer looking object altho i am older than dirt before it made a rock . keep up the good work . and enjoy this beauty of fall the Lord has given us

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 7:55 am

    My Mama also has Chinquapin eyes. And her photograph from about age 5 is very solemn. My little dark haired niece has those eyes too. Very beautiful.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Growing up in rural, coastal NC in the early 60’s on a dirt road, Mama would take us for a walk in the Fall after the leaves had browned and mostly dropped. She knew exactly where she was going. And excitedly found the small chinky-pin tree with a few burrs popped open, ready to share the small nuts. I only remember one small tree, until our road was paved. That Fall, when Mama took us for a walk, the chinquapin tree was gone. She never found another.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 7:37 am

    ……and so it was that once in the high country a little girl was borned with chinquapin eyes that would later be known as “The Angel of Brasstown”. My little sister had chinquapin eyes.
    Tipper, you are the best!

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    September 24, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Now I know what that means by comparing your picture to the picture that you are holding one. This was an interesting post.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    September 24, 2011 at 5:31 am

    We have lots of Chinquapin oaks on our place. They must be a different variety, though, as they have regular-looking acorns. But the leaves are like those in your picture, shaped differently from other kinds of oak trees.

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