COMMON NAMES: PECAN, NOGAL MORADO, NUEZ ENCARCELADA
Carya illinoinenis (CARE-ee-ah ill-ih-noy-NEN-sis)
Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)
Deciduous nut and shade tree
State/National Champion Pecan Tree in Weatherford, Texas.
HEIGHT: 80 to over 100 feet
SPREAD: 60 to 100 feet
FINAL SPACING: 30 to 60 feet and a 60 by 60 foot grid in orchards is ideal. Closer spacing used to be recommended, but proved to be a mistake.
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Pecan is native to the eastern half of Texas – all areas except the High Plains and the Trans Pecos. It is well adapted to a wide range of soils although it prefers the deep, moist sandy loam soils. In a landscape situation it will grow in sand or heavy clays.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Large growing, graceful shade tree with a rounded crown, tends to be open at the top, edible nuts in the fall and so-so yellow fall color.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Male flowers appear as drooping catkins, female flower clusters show just before leaf emergence. Both sexes appear on the same tree at the same time (monoecious). Male catkins are 5 to 6 inches long and the female flowers appear in short terminal spikes. The fruit (pecan nuts) ripen in the fall in clusters of 3 to 11. Husks split into 4 sections and often stay on the tree after the nuts have fallen. Pecan nuts are a wonderful natural food high in vitamin E.
BARK: Thick, light-brown or gray to reddish-brown with narrow, irregular fissures. The bark becomes flattened and scaly with age.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, compound, 12 to 20 inches long and have yellow fall color. Nineteen leaflets normal that are 3 to 8 inches long. Terminal leaflets tend to be larger than the leaflets closer to the stem.
CULTURE: Pecan trees are easy to grow in a wide range of soils. They respond to moderate fertilization although heavy, high- nitrogen fertilization can lead to many pest problems. Pecans are relatively drought tolerant but moisture is important in the summer as the nuts are forming. Zinc is often recommended as a foliar spray but I have found it unnecessary when using the Basic Organic Program. Buffered and proper levels of zinc exist in many of the natural organic products including fish emulsion, seaweed, Garrett Juice, humates, etc. Plus the BOP allows tied up nutrients in the soil to be released and made available to the plants.
PROBLEMS: Hickory shuckworm, pecan casebearer and webworms are the most common pests that pop up but they are all able to be controlled under the Basic Organic Program (see Appendix). Pecan trees are somewhat messy in a residential setting but they are certainly worth the trouble.
PROPAGATION: Pecans are easy to grow from seeds (the nuts) which should be planted immediately on release from the trees in the fall. The only problem is keeping the squirrels from digging them up.
INSIGHT: Pecan is the state tree of Texas and a great shade tree choice. Native trees and hybrids with small nuts such as ‘Kanza’ and ‘Caddo’ are the best choices. Everyone that understands trees, including the Texas State Forest Service and the A&M Extension System, are now recommending the native pecans and the smaller nut trees instead of the large paper-shell hybrids, because the smaller nuts and native trees are more healthy trees, more long lasting, have fewer problems and the quality of the meat and oil from the nut is superior.
QUESTION: I have two large pecan trees in my front yard here in Granbury that must be at least 40 or 50 years old. The pecans taste great, but there are not many. I probably get 1 or 1 1/2 grocery sacks full of pecans each year. What do I need to do to stimulate production? Also, I find small worms inside the shell from time to time. Am I just to expect that, or is there something that I need to be doing to discourage the worms? L.B., Dallas
ANSWER: Use the entire Fruit and Pecan Tree program that is on the home page of my Web site. Also make sure the tree gets irrigation water if we do not have rain in early summer.