Trees or shrubs , evergreen. Terminal buds present, ovoid or subglobose, scales imbricate. Leaves: stipules prominent on new growth, often persistent around buds. Leaf blade thick, leathery, margins entire or obscurely toothed, secondary veins obscure, branching and anastomosing before reaching margin. Inflorescences staminate or androgynous, axillary, clustered at ends of branches, spicate, ascending, rigid or flexible; androgynous inflorescences with pistillate cupules/flowers toward base and staminate flowers distally. Staminate flowers: sepals distinct; stamens (6-)12(-18), typically surrounding indurate pistillode covered with silky hairs. Pistillate flowers (1-)3 or more per cupule; sepals distinct; carpels and styles typically 3. Fruits: maturation in 2d year following pollination (termed biennial by many authors); cupule 2-several-valved, valves distinct, completely enclosing nuts, densely spiny, spines irregularly branched, interlocking, without simple hairs, with large, yellowish, multicellular glands; nuts (1-)3-several per cupule, 3-angled to rounded in cross section, not winged, adjacent nuts separated from each other by internal cupule valves. x = 12. Nuts are sweet and edible but difficult to remove from the spiny cupules unless completely ripe. The two species of Chrysolepis have sometimes been included in Castanopsis ; the latter, however, is a related genus of Fagaceae, native to Asia, with very different cupule structure (H.Hjelmquist 1948; L.L. Forman 1966).