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Shrub or tree, usually to 20 m, occasionally to 26 m, 1 m dbh. Branchlets pale grey and glabrous or minutely pubescent. Leaves deciduous, (2.5–)3–12(–14) × (1.5–)2.5–6 cm, oblong to oblanceolate, upper surface dull green and glabrous, lower surface silvery or dull green with minute eight- to ten-rayed stellate hairs or glabrous, 7–11 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire or irregularly dentate or with sinuous lobes, apex rounded, but rarely attenuate and three-lobed; petiole 0.2–0.5 cm long. Infructescence short with (one to) two cupules. Cupule saucer-shaped, 0.8–1.5 × 0.2–0.8 cm; scales ovate and flat, grey with red margins. Acorn ovoid to oblong, with one-eighth to one-quarter of its length enclosed in the cupule, 0.7–1.5 cm long, stylopodium short. Flowering March, fruiting October (USA). Muller 1942, Nixon 1997. Distribution MEXICO: Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas; USA: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas. Habitat Oak woodlands, scrubland and along streams between 0 and 600 m asl. Typically on limestone. USDA Hardiness Zone 5–6. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Nixon 1997, Sternberg 2004; NT752. Taxonomic note There are two varieties of Q. sinuata: var. sinuata is a tree to 20 m with a solitary trunk, leaves 5–12 cm long and acorns 1.2–1.8 cm long. It has a marked preference for low, wet areas between 0 and 400 m asl and is found in the southeastern United States. Var. breviloba (Torr.) C.H. Mull. (Bigelow Oak) is a multistemmed shrub or tree to 5 m, leaves 3–6 cm long and acorns 0.7–1.2 cm long. It occurs in oak woodland and scrub between 200 and 600 m asl, from the Edwards Plateau south into Mexico. The two varieties meet along streams in central Texas, where they produce a range of intermediate forms (Nixon 1997).
This southern white oak is currently represented in European arboreta by young plants grown from acorns distributed through the International Oak Society or from personal collections in the United States. Among these are seedlings of North Carolina origin at Ettelbruck, which have reached 1.5 m in six years and are very hardy there (E. Jablonski, pers. comm. 2006). Quercus sinuata is grown in American arboreta also, but although mentioned by Sternberg (2004) it appears not to be common in cultivation there. A tree in the JC Raulston Arboretum, accessioned as a 30 cm plant in 2000, was c.3 m in 2006, growing well, with vigorous new shoots some 60 cm long in June.