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Tree to 10 m (rarely 20 m). Branchlets pale greenish brown with stellate tomentum. Leaves evergreen, 2.5–7 × 1.5–3.5 cm, obovate to elliptic or orbicular, immature leaves densely covered in reddish brown glandular hairs; in mature leaves the upper surface is glabrous or with some pubescence along the midrib, the lower surface covered with slender reddish brown or dirty yellow hairs (both stellate and simple) or scale-like trichomes, six to eight secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins slightly retuse, entire or with spiny teeth, apex obtuse; petiole 0.2–0.5 cm long or absent, tomentose. Infructescence 0.5–2.5(–4) cm long with one to four cupules. Cupule shallow, 5–6 × 0.9–1.2 cm, outside grey-pubescent, inside tomentose; scales ovate, elliptic or lanceolate, apices often free from cupule wall. Acorn ovoid, with only its base enclosed in the cupule, 1.2–2 cm long. Flowering May to June, fruiting September to October (China). Huang et al. 1999, Zhou & Coombes 2001. Distribution BHUTAN; CHINA: Guizhou, western Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan; MYANMAR. Habitat From montane forest to subalpine scrub between 2000 and 4500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Huang et al. 1999; NT705.
Quercus aquifolioides is one of twelve species of largely Chinese oaks in Quercus section Cerris. All of them are small to medium-sized evergreen trees or shrubs with thick, leathery leaves. The leaves are obovate, elliptic or orbicular and often revolute; they may be spinose or entire, with great variation within individual plants. The leaf underside is densely covered in grey or golden fascicled hairs, giving the group the name ‘golden oaks’ (Zhou & Coombes 2001). Golden oaks have been in cultivation in Europe since Q. semecarpifolia was introduced to Tregrehan in 1894 (Zhou & Coombes 2001), and most species appear to be hardy. In place of descriptions of all twelve of these rather similar species, a key is provided below and they are discussed, briefly, later within this account (pp. 704– 707). The key is that of Zhou & Coombes (2001), with only minor modifications. Flora of China (Huang et al. 1999) recognises just seven of these species, and the following list is a guide to their synonymy as attributed in that account:
Quercus aquifolioides Rehder & E.H. Wilson
Quercus guyavifolia H. Lév.
Syn. Q. pannosa Hand.-Mazz.
Quercus monimotricha (Hand.-Mazz.) Hand.-Mazz.
Quercus rehderiana Hand.-Mazz.
Quercus semecarpifolia Sm.
Syn. Q. longispica (Hand.-Mazz.) A. Camus,
Q. pseudosemecarpifolia A. Camus
Quercus senescens Hand.-Mazz.
Quercus spinosa David ex Franch.
Syn. Q. gilliana Rehder & E.H. Wilson
Key adapted from Zhou & Coombes (2001)
Mature leaves with golden or grey hairs on the underside
Mature leaves glabrous, or with a few hairs at the base of the midrib
Leaves with yellow hairs beneath
Leaves with grey hairs beneath
Hairs densely covering the secondary veins; China (Sichuan, Yunnan)
Hairs not densely covering the secondary veins
Cupule with long, slender, linear or lanceolate scales, 0.4–0.5 cm long; China (Sichuan, Yunnan)
Cupule with short, lanceolate scales, < 0.4 cm long
Cupule hood-shaped, wall 0.2 cm thick; China (Sichuan, Yunnan)
Cupule not hood-shaped, wall 0.1 cm thick
Fruit spherical, 1.8–2.5 cm diameter, black when mature; Afghanistan, Bhutan, China (Xizang), India (Kumaun, Sikkim), Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan
Fruit ovoid, < 1.5 cm diameter
Pistillate inflorescence 5–16 cm long; China (Sichuan, Yunnan)
Pistillate inflorescence ≤ 4 cm long; China (Guizhou, western Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan), Myanmar
Small to medium-sized tree; leaves long-elliptic with dense hairs; China (Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan)
Shrub; leaves elliptic to obovate with scattered hairs; China (Sichuan, Yunnan), Myanmar
Leaves 6–10 cm long, secondary veins not sunken
Leaves < 6 cm long, secondary veins sunken
Leaves with a few scattered hairs on underside; China (Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan)
Leaves largely glabrous on both sides; China (Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan)
Leaves with dense hairs at base of midrib (underside); China (Fujian, Gansu, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan), Myanmar, Taiwan
Leaves without hairs at the base of the midrib; China (Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan)
Quercus semecarpifolia has been in cultivation for many years and is quite well known, with fine specimens at Arboretum Trompenburg, Tregrehan and Thenford House. Bean (1981a) records the introduction of Q. gilliana by Wilson, and provides a description, but it is not certain whether this species remains in cultivation.
Quercus aquifolioides is in cultivation at Kew and Thenford House from a collection made at 3690 m on the Zheduo Shan, Sichuan (SICH 376), when it was noted to be a shrub amongst Rhododendron and Salix. At both these sites it is slowly growing into an upright young tree, of approximately 2 m in 2006. The indumentum on the underside of the leaves is a bright sulphur-yellow when young, darkening somewhat in older leaves. The Kew specimen has already flowered. Eike Jablonski (pers. comm. 2006) reports that at Göttingen Botanical Garden in central Germany a plant from 1996 has made a vigorously growing bush, 1.2 m tall by 1 m wide.
Quercus longispica is well established at the Hillier Gardens from a 1981 collection made by Roy Lancaster (no. 960) as Q. semecarpifolia (see also Lancaster 1989). This 6.9 m specimen (January 2007) now fruits regularly and comes true from seed (A. Coombes, pers. comms. 2005, 2007). Again at the Hillier Gardens, 1999 collections made by John Rippin (no. 204) started to flower in 2005, when the plants were only 1.6–1.8 m tall (2.6 m in 2008). The leaves are dark green with a slight sheen above, densely golden-pubescent below, and quite variable between plants in the degree of toothing on the margins. Both the foliage and the distinctive long infructescence of Q. longispica are well illustrated by Zhou & Coombes (2001).
A vigorously growing plant of Q. pannosa at the Hillier Gardens, from a Tom Hudson collection, is a ferocious individual, with spiny dark green leaves and very dense yellow pubescence beneath; in 2008 it was 2 m tall. Specimens of Q. pseudo semecarpifolia (Coombes 479, Rippin 28) in the same arboretum have grown well, the tallest 3.1 m in 2008. As with other species in the group, trees show considerable variation in their degree of foliar spinescence, from very prickly (see Plate 37, p. 23) to almost smooth, but are distinctive for their glabrous, green undersides. Quercus pseudosemecarpifolia is growing vigorously at Ettelbruck and Kruchten, reaching 1.8 m by 2006 from a 1999 Jablonski collection from Yunnan (E. Jablonski, pers. comm. 2006).
At Quarryhill there is a fine multistemmed tree of Q. guyavifolia grown from H&M 1471 (Plate 459, p. 704), at first misidentified as Q. monimotricha. This was 7–8 m tall when seen in 2004, forming a rounded dome of dark green foliage. The young foliage is covered by yellowish hairs with a hint of red, but the indumentum thins out to leave sparse white stellate hairs on the upper surface of the leaf, while below the hairs are yellowish fawn. On a plant seen at Chevithorne Barton the very bristly leaves are white below when young, becoming yellow with age – a factor that should be considered when using the above key. Young specimens of Q. guyavifolia are also cultivated at the Hillier Gardens, and at Ettelbruck plants have reached 1.6 m from acorns collected in Yunnan by Eike Jablonski in 1999. Quercus monimotricha is well established on the scree beds in front of Jermyn’s House at the Hillier Gardens, as low hedgehog-like shrubs grown from Lancaster 1667, collected in northwest Yunnan in 1986. This species is never arborescent, but with its grey indumentum on the lower surface of the leaves it is attractive for the rock garden. At Kruchten a seedling of Q. monimotricha from a Jablonski collection in Yunnan in 1999 flowered at two years old, and has continued to flower, though without setting acorns. Cuttings have been raised from it, however, with a 50 per cent success rate (E. Jablonski, pers. comm. 2006).
Seedlings from a collection of Q. spinosa (Cao Ming 316) are now considered to be Q. dolicholepis (see p. 717) (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2007), and Q. spinosa (acorn illustrated, p. 698) is not known to be in cultivation.
Quercus fimbriata Y.C. Hsu & H. Wei Jen, known only from the type specimen, is considered to be a hybrid, with Q. dolicholepis and Q. aquifolioides as parents (Huang et al. 1999). Zhou (pers. comm. via A. Coombes 2006) has also recently found evidence of natural hybridisation within the group.