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Tree to 30 m, to 1 m dbh. Bark grey, breaking into irregular plates with age. Branchlets brown and tomentose. Leaves deciduous, somewhat leathery, 7–13 × 4–9 cm, ovate to cordate, rarely lanceolate, immature leaves with golden silky hairs along the veins and midrib on both surfaces and with a fringe of hairs around the margins, mature leaves largely glabrous, but for some golden hairs along the midrib, 11–13 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins dentate, with tiny spines terminating the secondary veins, apex acute to acuminate; petiole short, 0.6–1.1 cm long, softly hairy; stipules leathery, oblong to lanceolate and caducous. Leaves turn yellow in winter. Staminate flowers in groups of three (rarely four) and with short peduncles; stamens 10–20, 1–1.4 cm long. Pistillate flowers in groups of three to seven; cupule sessile, 1 cm long, pyramidal, four-valved and covered with woody scales. Nuts three to seven, winged. Flowering September, fruiting January to February (Chile). Rodríguez R. et al. 1983. Distribution CHILE: Maule Region, though previously widespread in central Chile. Habitat Known from only nine localities in the coastal mountains between 160 and 440 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Endangered, due to habitat loss for forestry and agriculture. Illustration Rodríguez R. et al. 1983. Cross-references B16, S347, K324.
The decline of Nothofagus alessandrii as a wild tree has been extremely rapid as its habitat has been lost to plantations of Pinus radiata and to agriculture, and the species now grows in highly fragmented patches over a total area of less than 3.5 km2 (Gardner et al. 2006). It is a fine large tree, with handsome, strongly veined leaves that colour to rich orange in autumn. It seems to be reasonably well established in cultivation, with good specimens in several British gardens. The best are a group of three trees ranging between 17 and 22 m tall at Plas Newydd, Anglesey, measured by Owen Johnson in 2005 (TROBI), but it is flourishing in Park Wood at Hergest Croft as well, and approaching 20 m there (L. Banks, pers. comm. 2007). It is also in cultivation in Australasia.