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National Champion Pecan Tree in Weatherford, Texas.


Common Names: Pecan, Nogal Morado, Nuez Encarcelada

Carya illinoinenis (CARE-ee-ah ill-ih-noy-NEN-sis)
Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)


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.


Pecan structure in winter


Habit: Large growing, long-lived, graceful, deciduous shade tree with a rounded crown, tends to be open at the top, edible nuts in the fall and so-so yellow fall color most years. Structure is normally irregularly spreading. Somewhat messy most of the time but well worth it.


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.


Pecan fall color


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.


Immature pecan still developing


Natural Habitat And Preferred Site: Pecan is native to the eastern half of Texas - all areas except the High Plains and the Trans Pecos - also native to Northern Mexico and southern United States especially around the Mississippi River and will grow in hardiness zones 6-9.


Scab disease on pecan


Scab disease


Planting Dates: Year-round from containers and balled and burlapped; bare rooted in the winter.


Planting Method: Bare-rooted or from containers. Roots must be cut if they have circled in the container. Can be planted from seed also - the nuts may be smaller and have thicker shells but better taste and higher quality oil. Pecan roots emerge from seed (nuts) over winter and the top starts to grow in the spring as the temperatures warm.

Choose a well-drained site with plenty of room. Whether the tree is bare-rooted, balled and ​burlapped, or container grown, measure the depth of the root system and dig a wide, ugly hole that is slightly more shallow than the height of the root ball.

Backfill with the soil from the hole (no amendments) and settle the soil with water (no tamping). Cover the disturbed area with a thin layer of a mix of lava sand and compost. Top that 1 inch mixture layer with 3 inches of shredded hardwood bark or shredded native tree trimmings but do not pile any mulch on the flare or trunk of the tree. Don't use common pine bark mulch. It's not as good for the tree and usually doesn't stay in place anyway, being bad about washing and blowing away.

Staking, wrapping the trunk, and cutting the top back to match the root loss are all common recommendations and are very bad advice. None of these procedures do any good. In fact, they are all detrimental to proper tree establishment and growth.


Hickory shuckworm


Hickory shuckworm


Culture: Pecan trees are easy to grow and well adapted to a wide range of soils although preferring deep, moist sandy loam soils. In a landscape situation they will grow in sand or heavy clays.


To ensure a productive crop with few insect and disease troubles, use a basic organic program that includes organic soil building and foliar feeding with Garrett Juice plus additives of garlic and potassium bicarbonate. Zinc is recommended often but rarely needed in an 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 organic program allows tied up nutrients in the soil to be released and made available to the plants.

Pecans 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.

Control insect pests with a basic organic program and the release of green lacewings and trichogramma wasps. The same techniques serve to indirectly control the disease pathogens that attack the foliage and nuts. Severe insect infestations can be stopped with citrus or essential oil sprays.


Pecan nut casebearer


Harvest And Storage: Pick up pecans as they drop in the fall. Sometimes shaking or thrashing the trees is necessary to loosen the nuts from the tree. Nuts can be stored in a dry, cool place and for a longer time, shelled or unshelled, in the freezer.


Problems: Webworms are mainly mainly an aesthetic problem. Pecan nut casebearer is more severe but both are easily controlled with trichogramma wasp releases starting at leaf emergence. Scab, hickory shuckworm, pecan casebearer and webworms are all easily controlled under the Organic Fruit and Pecan Program. The Sick Tree Treatment is also effective for pecan trees. Although pecans are bottomland trees, they perform and produce better when the flares are dramatically exposed. Pecan trees are somewhat messy in a residential setting because of dropping twigs, bark, flowers and leaves, but these grand trees are certainly worth the trouble.


Pecan nut casebearer


Propagation: Pecans are easy to grow from seeds (the nuts) that should be planted immediately on release from the trees in the fall. The only problem is keeping the squirrels from digging them up.


Shelled Georgia pecans. Photos via USDA by Judy Baxter


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" have been said to be the best choices. The native pecans and the smaller nut trees instead of the large paper- shell hybrids, tend to be more long lasting, have fewer problems and the quality of the meat and oil from the nut superior. However, research by Joe Bradford in Hamilton, Texas showed that "Desirable" was much more productive than "Caddo" and the other small nut trees.


Notes: Native pecan trees are the best for landscape use. They are, in general, more durable, faster growing, longer lived, less trouble and the nuts are higher quality even though they are smaller and harder to shell. ​Great choice for the Texas State Tree.


The National Champion Pecan is in Weatherford Texas and here is the link to that story.


Sick Tree Treatment





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