Tree to 20 m or more, usually less, and often shrubby, particularly in dry places or at high altitudes. Trunk to 65 cm dbh. Bark dark reddish brown, fissured. Young shoots with yellow-brown hairs, becoming glabrous. Leaves evergreen, leathery, with up to 7 pairs of sometimes impressed lateral veins, flat or somewhat convex, to 6 × 3 cm, nearly rounded to elliptic or slightly obovate, rounded at the apex and the base, margin with spiny teeth, particularly on young plants, to entire. Pubescent on both sides when young, particularly beneath, quickly becoming glossy dark green and glabrous above, paler beneath but persistently brown-hairy at the base of the midrib. Petiole with persistent hairs, 5 mm long or less. Infructescence to 3 cm long with up to 4 cupules. Cups hemispherical, to 0.8 × 1.2 cm, with appressed pubescent scales. Acorns ellipsoid to ovoid, to 2 × 1.2 cm, about a third enclosed in the cup and ripening the second year. (Menitsky 2005; Huang et al. 1999; le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010).
Distribution Myanmar China Fujian, Gansu, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan Taiwan
Habitat Rocky places on mountain slopes in oak and pine-oak forests, often on limestone at about 1000–3000 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 7
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note For some authors Q. tatakaensis is a synonym of Q. spinosa, but we maintain it as distinct here. A subspecies, Q. spinosa subsp. miyabei, is now treated as a synonym of Q. spinosa. See Chassé 2017.
Cultivated in several English collections, including Maurice Foster’s garden at White House Farm in Kent. This derives from a collection by Keith Rushforth in SE Tibet (KR 6025). This is also represented at Chevithorne Barton (c. 2 m tall, J. MacEwen pers. comm. 2020). Plants from Taiwan populations are less common, but young ones are at Arboretum des Pouyouleix in France. A plant at Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium, received from Taiwan as Q. spinosa var. miyabei f. rugosa, is Q. tatakaensis q.v..
Seedlings raised at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, England, from Cao Ming 316 (gathered in Yunnan as Q. spinosa) are in fact Q. dolicholepis (A. Coombes pers. comm. 2007).
Described in 1884. The epithet means ‘spiny’ in Latin and refers to the toothed leaf margin.