Tree to 16 m or more tall and 60 cm diameter, sometimes shrubby at high altitudes, bark grey, wrinkled. Young shoots with a dense, golden, velvety tomentum becoming grey and more or less glabrous. Leaves evergreen, leathery, elliptic-oblong to obovate, to 10 × 6 cm, smaller on slow-growing shoots of mature trees, tapered or rounded at the base, shortly acuminate at the apex, margin entire, sometimes undulate to shallowly toothed towards the apex, lateral veins up to 14 on each side of the midrib, impressed above, conspicuously raised beneath. Leaves are tomentose on both sides when they emerge becoming glossy dark green above with a dense yellowish tomentum beneath. Petiole to 1.5 cm. Infructescence to 7 cm with up to 10 short-stalked cupules. Cupules saucer-shaped, to 0.6 × 1.5 cm, with 7–8 rings of densely tomentose scales, at least the upper ones crenate. Acorns ovoid to nearly spherical, to 2 × 1.5 cm, only the base enclosed in the cup and ripening the following year. (Huang et al. 1999; Menitsky 2005; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010; Hickel & Camus 1921).
Distribution China Guangxi Thailand North Vietnam
Habitat Subtropical evergreen or deciduous humid forests with other oaks, Lithocarpus, Ericaceae and bamboos, often on mountain summits or ridges at 1200–1800 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Quercus poilanei was introduced by Tom Hudson in 2012 from 1700 m at the summit of Daming Shan, Guangxi, China. Rare in cultivation, there are four small plants about 1 m tall at Tregrehan (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2021). A plant of the same origin and size is at Chevithorne Barton, UK, which James MacEwen (pers. comm. 2021) describes as astonishingly beautiful.
Specimens in the Paris Herbarium record other information about this species. In 1920 Poilane collected it from Ba-Na, Vietnam where it grew in a large quantity and noted that the tree was 20 m tall and unbranched for 10 m. On a specimen collected at the summit of Nui Bach Ma Station in 1938 he noted that the hard wood is used for ‘colonne’, presumably as a building material. J.F. Maxwell collected it in Thailand and noted that the nuts are chewed with betel and the crushed seeds are used to treat burns (Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 2022).
It was named for Eugène Poilane, French botanist for the Forest Service of Indochina, who collected the type specimen at Ba-Na, Annam (Vietnam) in 1920. The local name in China can be translated as ‘yellow-backed evergreen oak’.