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An evergreen oak with narrow leaves has been collected on several occasions from southern Mexico, and has been identified and distributed as Quercus eugeniifolia Liebm. This is a principally Central American species, recorded from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, but was not listed in the preliminary checklist of oaks of Mexico (Valencia-A. 2004) and may not occur there. This placed in doubt the identity of young trees thus labelled in several collections, and for some time they have been suspected of representing a new species (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2005). During October 2008 the indefatigable Allen Coombes collected this taxon in cloud forest in the mountains of Hidalgo, Mexico, and agrees with the view that it is indeed a new species – a description of which, by Susana Valencia-Avalos and Kevin Nixon, will appear in due course (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008).
Specimens in European gardens and arboreta have originated from the Mexican mountains, where collectors have recorded the species at moderate altitude in cloud forest, supporting a garden of epiphytes (Sparrow & Brewster Expedition to Veracruz in 1993, VERA 34, field notes). Improbably, given their origins, the few young plants seen in the research for New Trees are thriving and indeed growing vigorously in several English gardens (see Plate 468). At both the Hillier Gardens and Arboretum de la Bergerette, trees grown from Coombes 219, collected in Veracruz in 1995, were 7.8 m tall by October 2008. At Chevithorne Barton, Michael Heathcoat Amory notes, this taxon grows vigorously; though his records give it as only ‘fairly hardy’, his specimen showed no damage after the winter of 2005–2006. Plants have not been affected by either frost or intense drought at La Bergerette, indicating considerable potential as a hardy tree (S. Haddock, pers. comm. 2006). It has reached 8 m there (2008), but in the drier climate has much smaller leaves than specimens growing in England (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008). The entire, dark green, leathery leaves of this new oak are a hint to its southern origins, resembling as they do the leaves of so many tropical trees. The new growth in late summer is a beautiful bright red, making this a very desirable species indeed. Careful siting is important, however, as the new growth may still be soft as winter sets in.