In the scrubby underbrush of dry hillsides is a shrub with velvety golden down on the underside of its shiny green leaves. This is the aptly named golden chinquapin (Chrysolepsis chrysophylla), which is a member of the oak family. It’s nuts, which are covered with a spiky golden husk, ripen in the summer time. The nuts are sweet-tasting and can be eaten raw or cooked; they were a common food for local tribes. If you plan to collect them, I recommend taking thick gardening gloves though–the spines are SHARP!!
Golden chinquapin is mostly found in coastal counties in California, but it does grow in scattered inland locations as well. It’s native to California, Oregon and southern Washington, where its range moves inland (and the plant gets larger). In our area it usually appears as a shrub, but don’t be fooled if you see a tree that fits the same description. The more widespread variety of this species is a tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall!