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Lithocarpus densiflorus

(California Chestnut Oak)


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Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Common Names in English:

California Chestnut Oak, Cutleaf Tanbark Oak, Live Oak, Notholithocarpus, Peach Oak, Tan-Oak, Tanbark oak, Tanbark-Oak, Tanoak


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Family Fagaceae

Trees or rarely shrubs , monoecious, evergreen or deciduous. Stipules usually early deciduous. Leaves alternate, sometimes false-whorled in Cyclobalanopsis. Inflorescences unisexual or androgynous with female cupules at the base of an otherwise male inflorescence. Male inflorescences a pendulous head or erect or pendulous catkin, sometimes branched; flowers in dense cymules . Male flower: sepals 4-6(-9), scalelike, connate or distinct ; petals absent; filaments filiform ; anthers dorsifixed or versatile, opening by longitudinal slits; with or without a rudimentary pistil. Female inflorescences of 1-7 or more flowers subtended individually or collectively by a cupule formed from numerous fused bracts, arranged individually or in small groups along an axis or at base of an androgynous inflorescence or on a separate axis. Female flower: perianth 1-7 or more; pistil 1; ovary inferior, 3-6(-9) -loculed; style and carpels as many as locules; placentation axile ; ovules 2 per locule. Fruit a nut. Seed usually solitary by abortion (but may be more than 1 in Castanea, Castanopsis, Fagus, and Formanodendron), without endosperm; embryo large.

Seven to 12 genera (depending on interpretation) and 900-1000 species: worldwide except for tropical and S Africa; seven genera and 294 species (163 endemic, at least three introduced ) in China.

Many species are important timber trees. Nuts of Fagus, Castanea, and of most Castanopsis species are edible, and oil is extracted from nuts of Fagus. Nuts of most species of this family contain copious amounts of water soluble tannin. Members of the Fagaceae are the main element of both broad-leaved evergreen and mixed mesophytic forests from 500-3200 m. [1]

Genus Lithocarpus

Trees or shrubs , evergreen . Terminal buds present, ovate , all scales imbricate. Leaves: stipules prominent on new growth, persistent around buds. Leaf blade leathery, margins entire or obscurely toothed to serrate, secondary veins unbranched, ± parallel, extending to margin. Inflorescences staminate and androgynous, axillary , often appearing terminal and branched by reduction of leaves, spicate , erect or ascending , rigid or flexible ; androgynous inflorescences with pistillate cupules/flowers toward base and staminate flowers distally. Staminate flowers: sepals distinct ; stamens 12(-18 or more) typically surrounding indurated pistillode covered with silky hairs . Pistillate flower 1 per cupule; sepals distinct; carpels and styles 3. Fruits: maturation in 2d year following pollination; cupule cup-shaped, without any indication of valves , covering proximal portion of nut, scaly , spines absent, scales strongly reflexed , hooked at tip ; nut 1 per cupule, round in cross section , not winged . x = 12.

Species 100-200: North America, e Asia.

Although fruit of Lithocarpus closely resembles that of Quercus, the two genera differ in characters of the inflorescence, flowers, and pollen. These characters indicate that Lithocarpus is more closely related to Castanea, Chrysolepis, and other Asian genera of subfamily Castaneoideae than to Quercus, and the similarity in fruit is because of convergence.[2]

Physical Description

Species Lithocarpus densiflorus

Shrubs or trees , to 20(-45) m. Bark gray or brown, smooth or deeply furrowed . Twigs densely yellowish tomentose . Leaf blade adaxially convex , to 60-120 mm, leathery to brittle, margins often revolute , regularly toothed , teeth prominent to obscure ; surfaces abaxially prominently and densely woolly , often glabrate at maturity, revealing gray or bluish green waxy surface, veins often distally impressed . Fruits: cup scales subulate , spreading to strongly recurved, hooked ; nut yellowish brown, globose to cylindric-tapered, to 15-35 mm, extremely hard, densely tomentose, eventually glabrate. [source]

Sterile specimens of Lithocarpus densiflorus are often confused with Chrysolepis and vice versa. Nonfruiting material of L. densiflorus is recognizable by the loose tomentose pubescence of the leaves and inflorescences (although the leaves are often glabrate with age). Chrysolepis lacks this tomentose pubescence and has only a tight vestiture of glandular-peltate trichomes , except for some stellate and straight simple trichomes associated with the flowers. [source]

Habit: Tree , ShrubGrowth Form: Single StemShape and Orientation: Erect

Flowers: Bloom Period: IndeterminateFlower Color: Yellow • Flower Conspicuous: Yes

Seeds: Seed per Pound: 90 • Seed Spread Rate: Slow • Seedling Vigor: Low • Fruit/Seed Abundance: Medium • Fruit/Seed Color: Brown • Fruit/Seed Conspicuous: Yes • Cold Stratification Required: Yes

Foliage: Foliage Color: Green • Foliage Porosity Summer: Moderate • Foliage Porosity Winter: Moderate • Foliage Texture: Medium • Fall Conspicuous: No • Leaf Retention: Yes


Active Growth Period: Spring and Summer • Growth Rate: Moderate • Mature Height (feet): 125.0 • Maximum Height at 20 Years (feet): 30 • Size: 30-40' tall. • Vegetative Spread Rate: None • Lifespan: Lifespan


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,147 meters (0 to 7,044 feet).[3]


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Duration: PerennialCoppice Potential: No • Progagated by Bulbs: No • Propagated by Bare Root: Yes • Propagated by Container: Yes • Propagated by Corms: No • Propagated by Cuttings: No • Propagated by Seed: Yes • Propagated by Sod: No • Propagated by Sprigs: No • Propagated by Tubers: No • Fruit/Seed Period Begin: FallFruit/Seed Period End: FallFruit/Seed Persistence: No


Culture: Space 20-30' apart.

Soil: Adapted to Medium Textured: Adapted to Medium Textured Soils • Adapted to Coarse Textured Soils: Yes • Anaerobic Tolerance: None • Salinity Tolerance: None • CaCO3 Tolerance: None • Minimum pH: 4.5 • Maximum pH: 6.5 • Fertility Requirement: Medium

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade. • Shade Tolerance: Tolerant

Moisture: Drought Tolerance: High • Minimum Precipitation: 40 • Maximum Precipitation: 100 • Moisture Use: Medium

Temperature: Minimum Temperature (F): 7 • Minimum Frost Free Days: 160 • Cold Hardiness: 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11. (map)


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Pasania densiflora (Hook. & Arn.) Oerst. • Quercus densiflora Hooker & Arnott • Synaedrys densiflora (Hook. & Arn.) Koidz.


Basionym : Fagaceae Pasania densiflora Oerst.

Basionym author: (Oerst.)

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Lithocarpus

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 6 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

L. densiflorus (California Chestnut Oak) · L. densiflorus echinoides (Tanoak) · L. densiflorus f. attenuato-dentatus (Mutant Tanbark Oak) · L. densiflorus var. echinoides (Shrub Tanbark Oak) · L. densiflorus var. parvus (Tanoak) · L. hancei (Hances Tanbark)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal December 06, 2007:



  1. Chengjiu Huang, Yongtian Zhang & Bruce Bartholomew "Fagaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 4 Page 314. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Lithocarpus". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 610.010 meters (2,001.345 feet), Standard Deviation = 554.330 based on 265 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30