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Tree to 40 m, 2.7 m dbh. Bark smooth at first, then with flaky or scaly ridges, resembling that of the Black Cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.), hence its common name. Branchlets yellowish brown and pubescent. Leaves deciduous, 9–30 × 6–16 cm, ovate to elliptic or obovate, immature leaves flat and covered with yellowish stellate tomentum, mature leaves puckered along the midrib, upper surface glossy and glabrous or with sparse stellate hairs along the midrib, lower surface pale and tomentose, 6–10 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins with 5–11 shallow triangular or falcate lobes, terminating in spiny bristles (10–25 in total), apex acute; petiole 2–5 cm long, glabrous or pubescent. Cupules one to two and sessile or with a peduncle to 1 cm long; saucer- or cup-shaped, 1–1.8 × 0.3–0.7 cm, outer surface minutely pubescent, inner surface pubescent; scales acute with tightly appressed tips. Acorn subglobose, with one-third to half of its length enclosed in the cupule, 0.9–1.5 cm long with a short, button-like stylopodium. Flowering March, fruiting October of the second year (USA). Nixon 1997, Sternberg 2004. Distribution USA: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia. Habitat Poorly drained valley floors and slopes between 0 and 300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 5. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Nixon 1997; NT744. Cross-references B474, K87 (in both cases, as Q. falcata var. pagodifolia).
Quercus pagoda is a massive, fast-growing timber tree when in favourable conditions, which would seem to be rich, fertile but lime-free ground with adequate moisture (Sternberg 2004), and it is very curious that it is not better known in European collections. It was briefly described by Bean (1976b) under its synonym, but with no indication that it was then in cultivation in the British Isles; Krüssmann, however, commented (1986) that it was introduced to cultivation in 1904. The UK champion, at Syon House, Middlesex, is 22 m tall (Johnson 2003). The planting date of this specimen is unknown, but a beautiful young tree at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, planted in 1989, is already 14.5 m high (2008) with a fine straight trunk, and Michael Heath-coat Amory records rapid growth from his trees in Devon. The specimen at the Hillier Gardens was notable, when observed in October 2005, for the irregularity of the lobing of the leaves, which were broad and comparatively shallow in the first flush, but much narrower with neater, smaller lobes in later growth. Quercus pagoda should be planted wherever other red oaks thrive and there is room for a magnificent tree. The name reflects its tapering, pagoda-like shape when young or, alternatively, the outline of its leaves.