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Tree to 15 m, often smaller and shrubby. Bark grey-brown, fissured into rectangular plates. Young shoots yellow-brown tomentose becoming glabrous. Leaves evergreen, rigid and leathery, with 6–9 impressed veins on each side of the midrib, more or less flat with a slightly revolute margin. To 5 × 3 cm, elliptic to oblong or slightly obovate, rounded at the base, bluntly pointed or rounded at the tip, the margins edged with rigid, spine-tipped teeth to entire or nearly so. Pubescent above when young, becoming dark green and glabrous or nearly so, the underside with a grey-white tomentum when young that becomes yellow-brown. Petiole tomentose at first becoming glabrous, to 8 mm long. Infructescence with a peduncle to 5 cm long, bearing up to 2 cupules. Cups hemispherical, 1–2 cm across, the scale yellow-brown tomentose and appressed. Acorns ovoid, to 1.5 cm long, about half or more enclosed in the cup and ripening the second year. (Menitsky 2005; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010).
Distribution China Sichuan, Yunnan
Habitat Open mountain slopes on both limestone and acidic rocks at 2300–4000 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 7
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
A tree planted in 1998 at Tregrehan, Cornwall, UK, was collected by Tom Hudson near Jianchuan north of Lake Erhai, Yunnan in 1994; it was about 8 m tall in 2020. No fruits have yet been produced, but it has been propagated by cuttings. It has taken some time to come out of the spiny phase and quite a proportion of the leaves have spines still evident (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2020). At Penrice Castle, Wales, this species was 4 m tall in 2018 (The Tree Register 2020) but has since died.
A vigorously growing plant of Q. pannosa at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, propagated from the Tom Hudson collection, was a ferocious individual, with spiny dark green leaves and very dense yellow pubescence beneath; in 2008 it was 2 m tall but this, too, has since died. There are two plants at Arboretum des Pouyouleix grown from seed received from China in 2015.
The epithet means ‘having the appearance or texture of felt’, in reference to the thickly felted undersides of the leaves. It derives from Latin pannus = piece of cloth.