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Tree to 20 m, 0.8 m dbh. Bark smooth above, cracking into thick plates at the base (not recorded from mature trees). Branchlets chestnut-colour and quickly glabrous, lenticels prominent. Leaves deciduous (semi-evergreen in cultivation), 2.5–15 × 1.3–5 cm, oblong, lanceolate or obovate, leathery and rigid, immature leaves with abundant yellow tomentum, short stellate pubescence and red glandular hairs; mature leaves largely glabrous above with a dense white stellate tomentum below, 7–12 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins flat or revolute, regularly dentate with five to nine sharp bristles on each side of the midrib or entire, the teeth being larger and more regularly spaced in late summer shoots, apex acute to rounded; petiole 0.3–1 cm long, yellow or brown, tomentose though quickly glabrous. Infructescence to 0.5 cm long with one to two (occasionally three) cupules. Cupule hemispheric, 1–1.4 × 0.5–1 cm; scales thin and grey. Acorn round to ovoid, with about half of its length enclosed in the cupule, 1.8–2.5 cm long, stylopodium small, sunken. Flowering June to July, fruiting August to December of the same year (Mexico). Gonzalez & Labat 1987, Romero Rangel et al. 2002. Distribution EL SALVADOR; GUATEMALA; MEXICO: Chiapas, Colima, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sinaloa, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Veracruz. Habitat Usually pine-oak forest on hill slopes, plateaus and valleys between 1450 and 3500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone (8–)9. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Gonzalez & Labat 1987, Romero Rangel et al. 2002; NT698.
Represented in most oak collections, Quercus castanea has been gathered regularly. The tree at Kew is the finest seen for the present work; accessioned in 1982, it was c.8 m tall in 2006, with a somewhat open top. This originated as a collection in the Sierra de Tecuan, Jalisco, made by a team from the George Landis Arboretum, Esperance, New York. Specimens elsewhere also suggest that Q. castanea is a comparatively slow-growing tree; at the Hillier Gardens a collection from Michoacán was less than 1 m in height after eight years. The foliage is attractive, being somewhat rugose or almost bullate and slightly reminiscent of Q. rysophylla, although the dense pale tomentum below prevents confusion with that species.