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Tree to 15 m, 0.5 m dbh. Branchlets purplish or brownish grey and glabrous with yellow lenticels. Leaves deciduous (or sub-evergreen), 6–24 × 3–11 cm, obovate to subspathulate, leathery, upper surface slightly glossy and glabrous, lower surface waxy glaucous with stellate tomentum along the midrib, 8–16 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins slightly revolute with 5–10 sinuous lobes on each side, apex obtuse or rounded; petiole 0.4–1.5 cm long and glabrous. Infructescence with one to three cupules. Cupule hemispheric, 1.1–1.5 × 0.7–0.9 cm; scales acute and tomentose. Acorn ovoid, with one-quarter of its length enclosed in the cupule, ~2.5 cm long, stylopodium short. Trelease 1924. Distribution MEXICO: Chihuahua, Jalisco, Sonora. Habitat Pine-oak forest, between 1500 and 1600 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Vulnerable, due to habitat loss.
Quercus subspathulata is another species very scarce in cultivation. So far it has been slow-growing at both Chevithorne Barton and the Hillier Gardens, and Michael Heathcoat Amory records that it suffers from dieback. At both locations it derives from Coombes 431, collected in Puebla in 1997, and the trees were about 1.5 m tall in 2006. In the warmer conditions of La Bergerette, however, it does better, and the best specimen there has reached 6 m (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008).