For decades, botanists and naturalists had been looking for a true Dwarf Chinkapin Oak stand in Illinois. It was believed that the Mason County sand areas were a likely place to find it, but casual observations there had been unsuccessful in the past.
Dwarf Chinkapin Oak (Quercus prinoides) is a shrubby, clone-forming oak native to eastern and central North America. In Illinois, Chinkapin Oak has been sometimes misidentified as Dwarf Chinkapin Oak, and a true Dwarf Chinkapin Oak plant had not been observed in the wild until recently. When the 2015 International Oak Society field trip stopped at Sand Prairie Scrub Oak State Nature Preserve on a beautiful October day, Guy Sternberg, an Illinois oak specialist, advised all 50 participants to be looking for this shrubby, cryptic species. Before they left, they had found not one but three specimens. It was an exciting day for Illinois botany. Despite thousands of years of human habitation and 200 years of statehood, there are still plenty of discoveries waiting to be made in the Prairie State.