MISSOURI – The Ozark Chinquapin is a tree that was thought to be extinct for many years because of a fungal disease. It’s now resurfacing in the Ozarks.

“Part of the reason why people thought they’d become extinct is they couldn’t find them,” said Tim Smith with the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, a foundation focused on preserving the trees.

“So how can you tell if a tree is an Ozark Chinquapin? “If you look at the leaf it’s kind of a long slender leaf nice, bristle tips that come out,” Smith said.

In addition to the leaves you can also find burrs with spikes on the tree as well. The tree is more than just your average tree found in the Ozarks. It can provide a lot of food for wildlife.

“What’s so special about the Ozark Chinquapin is it has a very high food source,” said Smith. “It has more protein, more carbohydrates than a White Oak Acorn which, is considered our number one food source for wildlife right now.

“While these trees are found in the Ozarks, the foundation is keeping their location a secret. “Yeah we keep it top secret,” Smith said. “These seeds, especially the cross-pollinated seeds, are more valuable than gold because we’re trying to find something that is 100 percent pure and money can’t buy it.”

The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation is trying to reintroduce a pure Chinquapin to the Ozarks without any trace of the fungal disease that killed many years ago.

“Why do we do this?” asked Smith. “It’s realizing, we’re creating science. We’re creating information. Things that were known about this tree, we’re rewriting history. We’re finding out stuff that nobody knew and that’s exciting. It makes it all worth it. Is it going to happen tomorrow? No, it’s going to take some years.”

Smith says by cross-pollinating, the foundation is saving these trees.