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A small semi-deciduous tree usually less than 50 ft high in the wild, but taller in damp, sheltered localities, with a dark, fissured bark; buds ovoid, with long, linear stipules; young stems velvety. Leaves shed in late autumn or early spring, oval to oblong, acute at the apex, rounded, truncate or slightly cordate at the base, 21⁄2 to 3 in. long, 11⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. wide (but sometimes almost 5 in. long and up to 4 in. wide), hairy on both sides when young, upper surface eventually glabrous to the eye, lower surface covered with a persistent indumentum of short hairs, margins edged with mostly five to seven pairs of large, triangular, acute, bristle-tipped teeth, but sometimes almost entire (in which case the main veins still run out to bristles); petiole 1⁄4 to 1 in. long. Fruits almost solitary, ripening the second year; cup hemispheric, up to 2 in. wide including the scales, which are flexible, hairy on both sides, fairly thin, the lower ones short, appressed, those of the middle ranks strap-shaped or lanceolate, up to 5⁄8 in. long and 1⁄4 in. wide, spreading and often slightly reflexed, the uppermost scales longer and narrower, those at the rim usually erect and pressed against the acorn, which is ellipsoid to ovoid, up to 13⁄4 in. long, half or more enclosed in the cup.
Native of Greece, Albania, and Turkey, where it occurs both in the European part and in western, central, and southern Anatolia; cultivated in Italy and perhaps native in the south-east, where there is, or was, a fine stand at Tricase, south of Otranto; introduced to Britain in the 18th century. The remarkable feature of this oak is the size of the acorn-cups and the length of the scales. Because of their high content of tannin they were at one time an important article of commerce.
Another synonym of this species is Q. ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis (Kotschy) Hedge & Yaltirik, which would be the correct name for it in the rank of subspecies, if the obscure name Q. aegilops L. is rejected.
specimens: Kew, Sundial Lawn, 66 × 53⁄4 ft (1985); Syon House, London, 62 × 63⁄4 ft (1982); Westonbirt, Glos., 40 × 3 ft (1983); Tortworth, Glos., 52 × 51⁄4 ft (1973); Lyndon House, Rutland, 30 × 5 ft in 1909, now 42 × 73⁄4 ft (1984); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, 49 × 41⁄4 ft (1985); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 30 × 41⁄4 ft (1985).
Q. ithaburensis – An example in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden measures 52 × 4 ft (1985).
Q. brantii Lindl. Q. aegilops subsp. brantii (Lindl.) Camus; Q. persica Jaubert & Spach – Near to Q. macrolepis but with more regularly serrate leaves. The middle scales of the acorn cups also differ somewhat in form, being rhombic in outline rather than lanceolate or strap-shaped. A native of eastern and south-eastern Anatolia, Syria, northern Iraq and Iran.
This species was named by Lindley in 1840 after James Brant, British Consul at Erzerum, who visited Kurdistan around 1839 with Edward Dickson and made a botanical collection which was sent to the Hon. William Fox-Strangeways of Abbotsbury, Dorset, and by him passed on to Lindley.
Lindley later suggested that it was this oak that featured on a translucent cylinder found by (Sir) A. H. Layard during his excavations in what is now Iraq, and figured in his famous work on Assyrian antiquities – Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (1853). Layard himself also introduced Q. brantii, sending a box of acorns to the Horticultural Society, from which plants were raised and distributed. One of these went to Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire and had borne fruits before being blown down.
Q. brantii is now in cultivation at Kew from seeds collected in the Elburz mountains of northern Iran in 1977 by Fliegner and Simmons.
Q. aegilops subsp. ithaburensis (Decne.) Eig
Q. aegilops var. ithaburensis (Decne.) Boiss.
Q. pyrami Kotschy
Q. aegilops subsp. pyrami (Kotschy) Camus
Q. aegilops var. pyrami (Kotschy) Boiss
Q. vallonea Kotschy
Q. aegilops subsp. vallonea (Kotschy) Camus