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.
var. vallonea (Kotschy) Zohary Q. vallonea Kotschy; Q. aegilops subsp. vallonea (Kotschy) Camus – This variety, which occurs with the type in W. Anatolia, differs in the thicker, woody, angular and more spreading scales of the cup, and in this respect resembles some forms of Q. ithaburensis. The cups are as rich in tannin as those of typical Q. macrolepis.
Q. macrolepis is uncommon in cultivation and rarely develops mature fruits. The following examples have been recorded (probably belonging to the typical variety): Kew, 40 × 41⁄4 ft (1972); Syon, London, 47 × 5 ft (1966); Westonbirt, Glos., 40 × 23⁄4 ft (1967); Tortworth, Glos., pl. 1846, 50 × 5 ft (1964).
Q. ithaburensis Decne. 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. – This ally of Q. macrolepis is a native of S.E. Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine, and was described in 1835 from a specimen collected on Mt Tabor. It is very variable in the size and shape of the cups and acorns, and in the cup-scales, which are thick and woody (hence differing from those of typical Q. macrolepis), but vary much in shape and posture. In one specimen in the Kew Herbarium they are thread-like – this probably represents var. dolicholepis Zohary. The leaves are mostly 2 to 3 in. long, ovate to lanceolate, rather more shallowly toothed than in Q. macrolepis.
Q. pyrami, here included in Q. ithaburensis, was described by Kotschy from the plain of the river Ceyhan (anc. Pyramus) in Cilicia (S.E. Anatolia). One of its differential characters was said to be that the leaves are often fiddle-shaped from a deep indentation below the middle. But according to Zohary, this peculiarity is met with occasionally in other oaks of the Aegilops group. It is apparently commonest on shoots of the second flush and perhaps also on young, vigorous plants. At any rate, two trees at Kew under the label Q. aegilops var. pyrami have not been observed to produce such leaves recently, except on branch-sprouts. They measure 59 × 51⁄4 ft and 47 × 41⁄2 ft (1971).
Q. aegilops L. – Linnaeus’ account of this species is so confused that most botanists have rejected the name as of uncertain application, though there can be little doubt that it was intended for Q. macrolepis or one of its allies. Mme Camus adopts the name and under it distinguishes seven subspecies, but she did not venture to suggest which of these was Q. aegilops sens, strict.