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Tree to 35 m, 0.7 m dbh. Branchlets dark brown with yellow tomentum, quickly glabrous, then black with conspicuous white lenticels. Leaves deciduous, 10–15 × 4–8 cm, ovate to lanceolate, immature leaves upper surface glossy, but with some stellate tomentum and rusty hairs on the midrib, lower surface with dense rusty stellate tomentum on the veins, spreading onto the lamina, mature leaves upper surface glabrous and somewhat glossy, lower surface shiny and largely glabrous, but with rusty tufts of hair in the vein axils, 6–10 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins serrate with five to seven shallow teeth, teeth often bristle-tipped and better developed towards the apex, apex acute; petiole 2–3 cm long and glabrous or minutely pubescent. Infructescence to 1 cm long with one to two cupules. Cupule hemispheric; scales loose, grey-green with a reddish apex, blunt and pubescent. Acorn round to ovoid, with half of its length enclosed in the cupule, silky, 2 cm long, stylopodium small. Flowering March to April (Mexico), fruiting in the following year. Trelease 1924. Distribution MEXICO: Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Veracruz. Habitat Between 1300 and 1800 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Vulnerable, due to habitat degradation and loss.
This species is included here on the strength of a specimen at Kew identified by Jan De Langhe and David Gardner as Quercus aff. xalapensis, having originally been donated by James Russell as Q. polymorpha, collected under J. Russell 433 in Xalapa Botanic Garden in 1983. This tree is approximately 10 m tall, with a wide-spreading but open crown, producing long new shoots each year. It certainly fits the description of Q. xalapensis, a red oak (Q. polymorpha is a white oak), and its attractiveness suggests that it might usefully be sought again in Mexico, preferably from higher altitudes. Specimens from Xalapa Botanic Garden have always proved tender at the Hillier Gardens.
The related species Q. skinneri Benth., from Nicaragua northwards to southern Mexico, does well at Tregrehan, producing attractively bronze-flushed new growth.