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Tree to 25 m. Crown oblong in outline. Bark grey or reddish brown with deep longitudinal fissures. Branchlets covered with yellowish grey pubescence. Leaves deciduous, 10–20 × 4–10 cm, obovate to elliptic, upper surface shiny mid-green, glabrous but for the hairs along the midrib, lower surface bluish green, densely covered in grey or golden hairs, with a fringe along the veins, 12–18 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins serrulate with 5–15 rounded or acute lobes, apex acuminate; petiole 0.5–1 cm long and shaggy greyish brown. Pistillate cupules solitary or in fascicles of two to three. Cupule cup-shaped, 1.2–1.5 cm diameter; scales ovate to triangular. Acorn ellipsoid to ovoid, with one-third to half of its length enclosed in the cupule, 1.5–2 cm long, stylopodium broad. Flowering January to April, fruiting September to November (China). Huang et al. 1999, Menitsky 2005. Distribution BHUTAN; CHINA: Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan; INDIA: Sikkim and northeast; LAOS; MYANMAR; SRI LANKA; THAILAND; VIETNAM. Habitat Mixed forest between 700 and 2800 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Huang et al. 1999, Menitsky 2005; NT691. Taxonomic note May be synonymous with Q. aliena Blume var. acutiserrata Maxim. ex Wenzig (Huang et al. 1999).
Quercus griffithii is represented in cultivation at the time of writing by a few young seedlings from recent collections; the only older specimens seen in research for the current work are plants at Quarryhill and Kew raised from SICH 1105. This collection was made at 2930 m in Yunnan in 1992, from an old tree growing on a grazed hillside with Rhododendron and other oaks. At Quarryhill it has made a nice tree, reaching 10 m, with ascending to spreading branches. The tree at Kew is now 2 m tall but looks as if it is struggling, with numerous dead twigs and the suggestion that it has lost its leader on at least one occasion. The species is clearly not very hardy in northern Europe, although a succession of milder winters may enable it to develop a trunk before a hard winter coppices it back. In the mild conditions of Brittany, for example, a specimen derived from the Wuliang Shan, Yunnan has reached 4 m in the garden of Brigitte Fourier, Morbihan. At Chevithorne Barton a 3 m specimen was cut to the ground in the winter of 2005–2006 but was producing vigorous new shoots of bright copper-red new leaves in late summer 2006. A plant at Starhill Forest Arboretum is cut to the ground annually, but the hot summers there enable it to send out shoots of 2 m or more each year. The leaves are bold and handsome, and despite the difficulty of finding a good spot for it, this is clearly a species worth persevering with, especially if high-altitude provenances can be found.