Tree to 15 m. Bark dark grey. Branchlets densely covered with yellowish grey hairs. Leaves evergreen, 5–12 × 2.5–6 cm, obovate to elliptic, thin and leathery, immature leaves covered in yellowish grey glandular hairs; in mature leaves, upper surface glabrous while lower surface retains the hairs, 8–12 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins with gland-tipped serrations on the upper half, apex acuminate to obtuse; petiole 1–2 cm long and densely tomentose. Infructescence 1–2 cm long with five to six cupules. Cupule cup-shaped or discoid, 0.7–1.2 × 1–1.4 cm, outside grey-tomentose; scales triangular to tuberculate. Acorn subglobose, with half of its length enclosed in the cupule, 1.1–1.3 cm long, stylopodium persistent, to 0.3 cm long, ripening the first year. Flowering February to March, fruiting September (China). (Huang et al. 1999, Menitsky 2005).
Distribution China Sichuan, C to S Yunnan Laos Thailand North
Habitat Mixed forest between 800–2600 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 5-6
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
In Yunnan, oak forests dominated by Quercus franchetii form a relatively low canopy, 6–8 m high, where the species is found in association with Keteleeria evelyniana, Albizia mollis, Pistacia chinensis, Morus alba, and Cercis glabra, among others. These forests occur on mountain slopes, on shallow, dry, calcareous clay soils (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010).
Grimshaw and Bayton reported it was rare in cultivation (2009), but younger specimens are now found in several collections. A tree at Tregrehan, England measured 12 m × 38 cm in 2014 (Tree Register 2020), it was obtained in 1990 as a young plant from Susan Cooper, who received acorns from Kunming Botanical Garden. It formed an upright tree, unlike the somewhat shrubby specimens seen in the wild (Grimshaw & Bayton 2009). The Tree Register (2020) records younger trees at White House Farm, England, and Penrice Castle, Wales, and trees of this species also grow in Arboretum des Pouyouleix (France), the Iturraran Botanical Garden (Spain), and in several US collections including the Morton Arboretum and Starhill Forest. At Chevithorne Barton, England, a specimen grown from seed collected by Allen Coombes in Kunming, Yunnan, in 1998, has grown well and reached 5 m (J. MacEwen pers. comm.).
According to le Hardÿ de Beaulieu and Lamant (2010) trees of this species are often planted next to pagodas for their ornamental value, in particular the bluish-green tomentum on the unripe acorns and the white undersides of the leaves.
Described in 1899 and named after Adrien René Franchet (1834–1900), botanist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, noted for his extensive work describing the flora of China and Japan, based on the collections made by French Catholic missionaries in China.