Hinton's oak (Quercus hintonii)

Also known as: encino of Hinton, encino prieto
GenusQuercus (1)
SizeHeight: up to 15 m (2) (3) (4)
Top facts

Hinton’s oak is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1).

Growing up to 15 metres in height and 0.5 metres in diameter, Hinton’s oak (Quercus hintonii) is a small deciduous tree found only in a small part of Mexico. It has dark bark, and is characterised by its bright red young foliage at the start of spring (2) (3) (4).

The leaves of Hinton’s oak are leathery in texture and are oval to lance-shaped, with a smooth or sometimes toothed margin. Each leaf measures up to 21 centimetres in length and 10 centimetres in width, and is light green and glossy, with a hairy underside (3) (4).

The male flowers of Hinton’s oak grow on long ‘catkins’ which measures up to ten centimetres in length. Each catkin consists of many individuals flowers. The female catkins grow up to 14 centimetres in length, and each consists of up to 6 flowers (3) (4). As in other oak (Quercus) species, the fruits of Hinton’s oak are known as acorns, and each acorn sits in a small ‘cup’. In this species, one to four acorns grow on a short stalk (3) (4).

Endemic to Mexico, Hinton’s oak is found only in a small area in the southeast corner of the State of Mexico (1) (2) (3) (4), where there are three distinct populations (2).

Hinton’s oak grows in submontane and montane dry forests (1) (2) which contain various oak (Quercus) and pine (Pinus) species (3) (4). It is found growing at elevations of between 1,300 and 1,950 metres (3) (4).

Hinton’s oak flowers in March, and its acorns mature between June and October (3) (4).

This tree is of great importance in Mexico, having a variety of uses, from firewood to tool handles, fence poles, furniture and beams (2) (3) (4). It is part of the traditional culture of the Tejupilco people, who burn it in bread-making ovens, giving a distinctive taste to the loaves (2).

Highly threatened by deforestation for coffee, avocado and maize plantations, Hinton’s oak is also being lost to human settlements and overgrazing by domestic livestock, which prevents seedling growth (1) (2). It may also be under threat from road construction (2).

As it only occupies a very small area, Hinton’s oak is particularly vulnerable to any threats (1).

In a collaboration between Mexican researchers from the University of Puebla and staff from the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum in the United Kingdom, a conservation strategy for Hinton’s oak has been created. It involves training local people in plant propagation, undertaking field research, and the production of an educational guide about the conservation of this important species (2).

Find out more about Hinton’s oak and its conservation:

Authenticated (21/03/13) by Richard Browne.

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
  2. Global Trees Campaign- Quercus hintonii (July, 2010)
  3. Aguilar Enríquez, M. de L. and Romero Rangel, S. (1995) Estudio taxonómico de cuatro especies de encino (Quercus) descritas por Warburg. Acta Botánica Mexicana, 31: 63-71.
  4. Romero Rangel, S., Carlos, E., Zenteno, R. and Aguilar Enríquez, M. de L. (2002) El género Quercus (Fagaceae) en el Estado de México. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 89(4): 551-593.