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An evergreen tree up to 80 ft or more high in California; young shoots densely covered with starry down. Leaves hard in texture, oval or roundish, heart-shaped to tapered at the base, margined with slender, spiny teeth; 1 to 2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, dark shining green and glabrous above, paler, not so glossy beneath, and glabrous except for tufts of down in the vein-axils; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, stellately downy. Acorns cone-shaped, solitary or in pairs, stalkless, about 1 in. long, 5⁄8 in. wide near the base, tapered gradually to a point, the lower third enclosed in a cup which is silvery within, and covered with close, flattened scales without. They ripen the first year.
Native of California and of Mexico (in Baja California); introduced for the Horticultural Society by Hartweg, in 1849; now very rare. Among cultivated evergreen oaks with spiny toothed leaves it is distinct by reason of the tufts of down in the vein-axils and the tapered, conical acorns. It is an interesting oak, but of no particular merit.
There are several examples of this oak at Kew, which are quite hardy and occasionally bear acorns. The largest is 52 × 53⁄4 ft (1971).
specimens: Kew, 54 × 61⁄2 ft (1981); Hillier Arboretum, Ampfield, Hants, pl. 1954, 41 × 31⁄2 ft (1985).
This species was described by Bean (B460, S406) and Krüssmann (K81).
This taxon was introduced to the United Kingdom by Warner and Howick (WAHO 345) from a collection made in San Diego Co., California in 1986. At Kew a specimen from this gathering has made a fine tree of c.10 m, with numerous vertical branches, forming a dense canopy that extends to the ground. This was fruiting freely in November 2005.