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Plant Guide

 

Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch
pecan
CAIL2

Summary

Duration

Perennial

Growth Habit

Tree

U.S. Nativity

Native to U.S.

Federal T/E Status

 

National Wetland Indicator

FACU, FACW

 

Morphology/Physiology

Active Growth Period

Spring and Summer

After Harvest Regrowth Rate

 

Bloat

 

C:N Ratio

High

Coppice Potential

No

Fall Conspicuous

No

Fire Resistant

No

Flower Color

Green

Flower Conspicuous

No

Foliage Color

Yellow-Green

Foliage Porosity Summer

Dense

Foliage Porosity Winter

Porous

Foliage Texture

Fine

Fruit/Seed Color

Brown

Fruit/Seed Conspicuous

Yes

Growth Form

Single Stem

Growth Rate

Slow

Height at 20 Years, Maximum (feet)

35

Height, Mature (feet)

140

Known Allelopath

No

Leaf Retention

No

Lifespan

Long

Low Growing Grass

No

Nitrogen Fixation

 

Resprout Ability

Yes

Shape and Orientation

Erect

Toxicity

None

 

Growth Requirements

Adapted to Coarse Textured Soils

Yes

Adapted to Fine Textured Soils

Yes

Adapted to Medium Textured Soils

Yes

Anaerobic Tolerance

None

CaCO3 Tolerance

Low

Cold Stratification Required

No

Drought Tolerance

Low

Fertility Requirement

High

Fire Tolerance

Low

Frost Free Days, Minimum

180

Hedge Tolerance

Low

Moisture Use

High

pH, Minimum

5

pH, Maximum

7.3

Planting Density per Acre, Minimum

300

Planting Density per Acre, Maximum

700

Precipitation, Minimum

24

Precipitation, Maximum

60

Root Depth, Minimum (inches)

32

Salinity Tolerance

Low

Shade Tolerance

Intolerant

Temperature, Minimum (°F)

-8

 

Reproduction

Bloom Period

Early Spring

Commercial Availability

Routinely Available

Fruit/Seed Abundance

High

Fruit/Seed Period Begin

Summer

Fruit/Seed Period End

Fall

Fruit/Seed Persistence

No

Propagated by Bare Root

Yes

Propagated by Bulb

No

Propagated by Container

Yes

Propagated by Corm

No

Propagated by Cuttings

No

Propagated by Seed

Yes

Propagated by Sod

No

Propagated by Sprigs

No

Propagated by Tubers

No

Seed per Pound

96

Seed Spread Rate

Slow

Seedling Vigor

Medium

Small Grain

No

Vegetative Spread Rate

Slow

 

Suitability/Use

Berry/Nut/Seed Product

Yes

Christmas Tree Product

No

Fodder Product

No

Fuelwood Product

High

Lumber Product

No

Naval Store Product

No

Nursery Stock Product

Yes

Palatable Browse Animal

Low

Palatable Graze Animal

Low

Palatable Human

Yes

Post Product

No

Protein Potential

Low

Pulpwood Product

No

Veneer Product

No

 

Kingdom  Plantae -- Plants

Subkingdom  Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants

Superdivision  Spermatophyta -- Seed plants

Division  Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants

Class  Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons

Subclass  Hamamelididae

Order  Juglandales

Family  Juglandaceae -- Walnut family

Genus  Carya Nutt. -- hickory P

Species  Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch -- pecan P

 

Alternate Names

Sweet pecan, Illinois nut, faux hickory, pecan hickory, pecan nut, pecan tree

 

Uses

Economic: Pecan trees produce edible nuts that have a high percentage of fat and are used extensively in candies and cookies (Stephens 1973).  These nuts are sweet and delicious and are often added to bread, cake, and ice cream.  The oil from the rejected nuts is used for cooking and cosmetics.  Milk can be made from the seed and is used to thicken soups and season corn cakes (Facciola 1990).  The wood has occasionally been used for flooring, furniture, cabinetry, paneling, and agriculture implements. 

 

Medicinal: Pecan was used by the Comanche as a treatment for ringworm.  They would pulverize the leaves and rubbed them on the infected part of the ringworm.  The Kiowa would consume a decoction made from the bark of pecan for tuberculosis (Moerman 1998).

 

Wildlife: Seedling and lower branches of older pecan trees are browsed heavily by white-tailed deer.  Many birds, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels eat pecan nuts.  This tree provides cover for a variety of birds and mammals in the forests of southeastern United States. 

 

Agroforestry: Pecan trees are valuable species in alley cropping systems.  An agricultural crop is grown simultaneously with a long-term tree crop to provide annual income while the tree crop matures.  Fine hardwoods, such as pecan trees, are planted side by side in alleys, or strips in alley cropping systems and can potentially provide high value logs for lumber or veneer. 

 

Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values. 

 

Description

General: Walnut Family (Junglandaceae).  Pecan is a native, medium to large sized deciduous tree ranging from 100-140 feet.  The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, ten to twenty inches long, eleven to seventeen leaflets that are four to eight inches long (Harrar & Harrar 1962).  The flowers are unisexual, both sexes are borne in separate clusters on the same tree.  The fruit is thin-shelled nuts; four winged from base to apex, borne in clusters of three to twelve (Ibid.).  A ridge is formed where the two halves of the outer fruit come together.  The fruit is dark brown in color and covered with yellow scales.  The husk is thin and brittle.  The husk often persists on the branch into the winter after dropping the nut.  The nut is thin shelled with a reddish-brown color and pointed at both ends.  The bark is grayish brown or light brown and is flat ridged and shallowly furrowed. 

 

Distribution: Pecan is native from Iowa to Indiana to Alabama, Texas and Mexico (Dirr 1990).  This tree follows the river basins very closely, principally along the Mississippi and its tributaries, the Colorado River in Texas, and along some of its tributaries in Mexico.  For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. 

 

Adaptation

Pecan trees commonly grow on rich, moist, well-drained soils that are not subject to prolonged flooding.  It appears near river bottoms and on heavy textured soil.  This species grows in a humid climate usually appearing with sweet gum, water oak, poplars, honey locust, and American elm.  It grows best where summer temperatures average 24-30º C. Pecan is susceptible to fire damage due to the low insulating capacity of the bark.  Post-fire re-colonization occurs via seeds carried to the site by animals and water.

 

Establishment

Propagation from Seed: Seeds are best sown in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe.  Pecan seeds show delayed germination and require a period of cold stratification.  Seeds should be stratified at 36-41º F for thirty to sixty days and then followed by incubation at room temperature.  The seedlings should be transplanted when they are large enough to handle and planted in deep pots to accommodate the taproot.  Put the plants in their permanent positions as soon as possible, preferable during the first summer, and give them some protection from the cold for the first winter (Sheat 1948).  Pecan requires a frost-free period of 6 to 9 months for nuts to be produced and mature.  The trees require 1 to 2 inches of rain per week during the growing season.

 

Propogation by root sprouting: Nuts sown in the fall are subjected to the necessary cold stratification and will germinate in the spring in moist soils.  Pecan can also be propagated through root sprouting, but does not respond well to transplanting.  Pecan trees prefer deep, moist soils, in full sun.

 

Management

The best time to plant pecan trees is during the months of December, January, and February.  The hole should preferable be dug six or eight inches wider than extended lateral roots and eight inches deeper than the length of the taproot.  Very little pruning is needed since pecan trees form a natural, vase shaped canopy.  Remove only diseased, dead, or broken limbs on a regular basis. 

 

Pecan trees are susceptible to a variety of insects, pests and diseases.  It is best to establish a good disease and insect control program to protect this species.  Grown in its native habitat and using local seed stock, pecan should not be prone to debilitating pests.  Pecan often suffers from zinc deficiency.  To compensate for this the trees should be sprayed every 2 to 4 weeks in the spring and early summer with zinc sulfate.  Soil tests will ensure the proper amount of zinc sulfate is applied.

 

Cultivars, Improved and Selected Materials (and area of origin)

Materials are readily available for commercial seed sources.   Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information.  Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.”  The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

 

References

Britton, N.L. 1908.  North American trees.  Henry Holt & Company, New York, New York.

 

Brown, C.A. 1965.  Louisiana trees and shrubs.  Claitor’s Bookstore, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

Brown, C.L. & L.K. Kirkman 1990.  Trees of Georgia and adjacent states.  Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

 

Carlson, G.G. & V.H. Jones 1940. Some notes on uses of plants by the Comanche Indians. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters 25:517-542.

 

Correl, D.S. & M.C. Johnston 1970. Manual of the vascular plants of Texas. Texas Research Foundation, Renner, Texas. 1881 pp.

 

Dirr, M.A. 1997  Dirr’s hardy trees and shrubs: an illustrated encyclopedia.  Timber Press, Inc., Portland, Oregon.

 

Dirr, M.A. 1990.  Manual of woody landscape plants: their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation, and uses.  4th ed.  Stipes Publishing Co., Champaigne, Illinois.

 

Floridata.com LC. 2002. www.floridata.com

 

Facciola, S. 1990.  Cornucopia-a source book of edible plants.  Kampong Publications.

 

Great Plains Flora Association 1986.  Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  1392 pp.

 

Harlow, W.M., E.S. Harrar, J.W. Hardin, & F.M. White 1996.  Textbook of dendrology.  8th edition.  McGraw-Hill Inc., New York, New York.  534pp.

 

Harrar, E.S. & J.G. Harrar 1962.  Guide to southern trees.  2nd ed.  Dover Publications, Inc., New York, New York.

 

Hunter, C.G. 1995.  Trees, shrubs, and vines of Arkansas.  2nd ed.  The Ozark Society Foundation, Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Lemmon, R.S. 1952.  The best loved trees of America.  The American Garden Guild and Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York.

 

Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium Staff 1976.  Hortus Third.  Macmillan Publishing Company.  1290 pp.

 

Moerman, D. 1998.  Native American ethnobotany.  Timber Press, Oregon.

 

Moerman, D.E. 1999.  Native American ethnobotany database: Foods, drugs, dyes and fibers of native North American peoples.  The University of Michigan-Dearborn. http://www.umd.umich.edu/cgi-bin/herb

 

Preston, R.J. Jr. 1948.  North American trees.  2nd ed.  The Iowa State College Press, Ames, Iowa.

 

Preston, R.J. Jr. 1989.  North American trees.  4th ed.  Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

 

Sheat, W.G. 1948.  Propagation of trees, shrubs, and conifers.  MacMillan & Company.

 

USDA Forest Service 2001.  Fire effects information system. Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Boise, Idaho. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/carill/index.html

 

Prepared By

Lincoln M. Moore

USDA, NRCS, National Plant Data Center

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 

Matthew Hurteau

Formerly USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, c/o Environmental Horticulture Department, Davis, California

 

Species Coordinator

M. Kat Anderson

USDA, NRCS, National Plant Data Center, c/o Plant Science Department, Davis, California

 

Edited: 29jan03 jsp; 09jun03 ahv; 31may06 jsp

 

For more information about this and other plants, please contact your local NRCS field office or Conservation District, and visit the PLANTS Web site<http://plants.usda.gov> or the Plant Materials Program Web site <http://Plant-Materials.nrcs.usda.gov>


 

 

Attribution:  U.S. Department of Agriculture 

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