A deciduous tree up to 50 ft high, with a slender trunk; young shoots at first downy, soon becoming glabrous. Leaves oblong or narrowly oval, rounded or broadly tapered at the base, terminated by a slender bristle-tipped point; each of the twelve to sixteen parallel veins at either side the midrib running out into a bristle-like tooth 1⁄6 in. long; the leaves are 3 to 7 in. long, 1 to 21⁄4 in. wide, upper surface glabrous and shining, lower surface not so bright and of a paler green, with tufts of down in the vein-axils; the stalk slender, 5⁄8 to 11⁄4 in. long. Acorns (not seen in this country) small, and half embedded in cups which are covered with long, slender, pointed, downy scales.
Native of China, Japan, and the Himalaya; introduced from Japan to Kew by Richard Oldham about 1862. It is a neat and cheerful-looking tree suitable for a limited space. Sargent says that in Japan it springs up on waste land in great numbers, but is only valued as fuel. Silkworms feed on its leaves. Nearly allied to it is Q. variabilis, with a corky bark, the leaves grey-felted beneath, and with shorter teeth. The only other oak with which it is likely to be confused is Q. castaneifolia, but that may be easily distinguished by its shoots being downy throughout the first season or longer, by the thicker, shorter, quite downy leaf-stalk, and by the absence of the bristly termination to its coarser teeth.
The largest recorded specimen grows at Highnam Court, Glos.; this measures 77 × 7 ft (1971). The best at Kew, in the Ash collection, is 59 × 51⁄2 ft (1971).
subsp. chenii (Nakai) Camus Q. chenii Nakai – According to Camus, this subspecies differs from typical Q. acutissima in its quite glabrous leaves, smaller fruits, and cups with shorter more slender scales. It was discovered by the Chinese botanist Y. Chen in Anhwei province and also occurs in other parts of southern central China. There are small examples at Kew by the Victoria Gate and at Borde Hill in Sussex.