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Tree to 40 m, 2.1 m dbh. Bark dark brown and moderately smooth in young trees; at maturity, black and divided by deep furrows into broad, flattened ridges. Branchlets yellowish or reddish brown and glabrous. Leaves (largely) deciduous, 3–12 × 1.5–4.5 cm, rhombic or broadly elliptic to ovate, immature leaves with tufts of hair in the abaxial vein axils, mature leaves glabrous, 8–10 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire or with some shallow lobing, apex obtuse or rounded and tipped with a bristle; petiole 0.1–0.5 cm long and glabrous. Cupule solitary and sessile; shallow and saucer-shaped to deep and bowl-shaped, 1.1–1.7 × 0.3–0.9 cm, outer surface minutely pubescent, inner partially pubescent; scales acute or attenuate, tips appressed. Acorn ovoid or globose, with one-quarter to half of its length enclosed in the cupule, 0.8–1.6 cm long, stylopodium prominent. Fruiting September to October of the following year (USA). Nixon 1997, Sternberg 2004. Distribution USA: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia. Habitat Floodplains, riverbanks and terraces between 0 and 150 m asl. Typically on sandy soils. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Nixon 1997, Sternberg 2004; NT698. Cross-references B502, K92.
Quercus laurifolia is well represented in European collections, and was introduced as long ago as 1786 according to Krüssmann (1986). Although none of the specimens observed for the present work are very old, among them are some impressive trees, one at Kew planted in 1972 being 10 m tall and as much wide, while another at the Hillier Gardens is about 12 m tall. This compares with older trees of 15 m at Stanage Park, Powys and at Winkworth Arboretum (Johnson 2003). At the Trompenburg Arboretum, despite the high water-table there, it has not done so well, perhaps because it has been given too shaded a site. It is a handsome tree with a rounded crown developing from very dense branches, with a good red flush in spring (G. Fortgens, pers. comm. 2005), and again in summer. In the southern United States it is a popular shade tree and is said to be both flood- and shade-tolerant (Sternberg 2004), but to need acidic soil (Hillier & Coombes 2002).