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Tree - #1 Weatherford Pecan Champion







Big Trees 
Pecan in Weatherford


Let’s talk big trees.  This will be a two part newsletter.  The first tree is my favorite:  the Champion Pecan Tree in Weatherford, Texas.  It is owned by Bill and Lynn Finch, and they are delighted to have you visit.

Their farm and the tree are three miles north of the downtown square, on the right side of Highway 51.  The property is a white house on the right as you start up the hill from a new bridge over a creek.  Check in at the house and then walk past the barn and across a dry creek to the tree.  The Finches welcome you, but please be respectful to their property and the tree.  Leave your card or a note on where you're from.

This tree was proclaimed the national champion some years ago, but later was supposedly surpassed by a tree in Georgia.  I need to see that tree to believe it.  There is a picture of the award in my Texas Trees book.

This tree has the following specs - remember them when you see next week's tree:  trunk diamater 8', crown spread 159' and height 118". 

State/National Champion Pecan Tree in Weatherford, Texas.





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


Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)
Deciduous nut and shade tree


HEIGHT:  80 to over 100 feet     SPREAD:  60 to 100 feet

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.  It can be grown from tropical areas to zone 5.



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 are normal and 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 (See organic guide).  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 BOP.  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.


Arborist Sandy Rose, cowboy singer Don Edwards, owner Bill Finch and Chewy with the champion tree.  The photos don't do the tree justice.  You have to see it in person.

The tree in winter flanked by the crew.  They have donated a considerable amount of work to help the tree, including airspade work to expose the huge flare. Even though Sandy Rose, Tyson Woods and I all agreed on the work, we were criticized by other arborists and the Texas Forest Service.  Some people just don't get it yet.

Root flare exposure work on the champion tree.







Naturally yours,
Howard Garrett


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