Also called jade tree, Japanese live oak or bamboo-leaf oak, the Chinese evergreen oak (Cyclobalanopsis myrsinifolia) makes a magnificent lawn, park or street shade tree in mild-winter regions. In North America this tree rarely receives attention or notice from plant propagators and landscape designers. Its oval canopy, small leaves and tidy appearance make this species worthwhile.
Classified as a flowering plant, or angiosperm, the Chinese evergreen oak is in the beech family, Fagaceae, and has the botanical name Cyclobalanopsis myrsinifolia. Some botanists consider it as a true oak species, with name Quercus myrsinifolia.
This tree grows in highland mixed forests in mountain valleys in southeastern China. At elevations between 600 to 8,000 feet, its native range includes most provinces along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
Chinese evergreen oak grows to a mature height of 30 to 50 feet with canopy width of 25 to 45. In cultivation, the tree becomes slightly smaller at maturity, about 25 feet tall by 20 feet wide. Its smooth gray bark resembles that of beech trees (Fagus). The dark green, satin-glossed leaves display tiny teeth on their edges. Leaf undersides are a silvery gray color. New foliage in spring emerges salmon to light green before maturing to deeper green. Small, inconspicuous flowers occur in mid-spring, becoming oblong acorns that are chocolate-black. The cap on the acorn displays three to six concentric rings, a characteristic not seen in oaks native to North America.
Plant a Chinese evergreen oak in full sun, meaning it should receive from at 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight daily. The best soils contain organic matter and remain moist across the growing season. Avoid soggy soils and those with an alkaline pH (greater than 7.8). In North America, grow it in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 7 through 9.