Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Pecan, Carya illinoinensis

When someone says Pecan, I think pie. I love Pecan pie, Derby Pie is pretty good too. (Think Pecan pie and add some chocolate and good Kentucky bourbon) The Pecan tree, Carya illinoinensis- another Hickory, is a North American native tree whose range originated in the lower Mississippi valley but has spread throughout the South. It is adaptable to zones 5b-9a. A bottomland tree, the Pecan grows in full sun and while there are some pests, they are not serious problems. Missouri Botanical Garden has some great photos and a super link to a list of the pests.

A mature tree grows to a height of up to 100+ feet with a spread up to 70 feet. Notice the grand shape to this mature tree in Hampton. I was lucky to find a great number of examples of pecan trees near my ballet studio. It was one of those occasions where I never knew they were there! It helped that they were in fruit when I started looking for them.

One week later-- its fall colors are starting to show.

The leaf is alternate, pinnately compound with anywhere from 9- 15 serrated leaflets. The fruit ripens in the fall –anytime from September to December. The tree is monoecious (one house) the male flowers are fuzzy catkins and the female flowers are small yellowish green. The nut is inside a thick hull that will crack open easily when ripe.

The light gray bark is smooth on a young tree becoming narrowly ridged. Fall color is that of other hickories, yellow.

Uses vary from food production for man, furniture, cabinets, veneers, to a great food source for wildlife. This is still a green nut.

Virginia Tech- brief summary

University of Florida- great detail, no photos

Vanderbilt- comparison tool with other Hickories

US Forestry Department- scientific detail, range map, no photo

Fall color --
From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden

I have updated some of the fall colors on previous tree posts. Black Gum, Shagbark Hickory, Crape Myrtles, and Sourwood.

Just added the White Oak as well.

Next week – Swamp Chestnut Oak/ Swamp White Oak/


  1. They are such pretty trees. My neighbor has one that has wonderful pecans each year. Sadly they do not use them. I know they have wonderful pecans because the things blow into my yard and sprout. I've given away about a dozen baby pecan trees this fall alone! All recipients are happy to get them. I wish I could grow one but we have a full canopy of oaks and there is no room or good spot unless I took out the veggie garden-hmmmm. Hubby might like that since it is his dream to have pecans-of course he likes fresh veggies too. One note on them, they leaf out late. Very late as compared to most of the oaks and maples around here.

  2. A beautiful tree -- I like your idea of Tuesday Trees! I love pecan pie, too. ;)

  3. Sometimes you feel like a nut, someitmes you don't.

    I felt like grabbing a handful of nuts after reading about pecan trees, my dear. I have never seen a green pecan, thanks for sharing all about these trees.
    Thanks for following my blog,:)

  4. Pecans are falling here -- the nuts, not the trees.

    We have 'seedling' trees of different ages and the nuts turn out different sizes and shapes. There is one that is round, almost as round as a hickory nut, but not nearly as hard to crack, some that are long and skinny and some that are just ordinary. The taste varies; some are oilier than others. All are delicious.

  5. I have one of these trees in my own yard Janet. Thanks for all the great info. The nuts aren't quite ready for picking yet, but soon... :)

  6. If you're ever at Mount Vernon, keep an eye out for the huge pecan right next to the house.

  7. I just love the shade that Pecan trees provide in the summer. We have large groves of pecan trees. There are even some in the middle of the desert on Indian Reservations.

  8. I didn't know a pecan tree could grow this large--what a beautiful tree! I'd love to have a pecan tree in my yard--Derby Pie sounds even better than pecan pie! And toasted pecans make an ordinary green salad even taste special:)

  9. Pecan trees are common shade trees in my neck of the woods. My favorite use for pecans is Tar Heel Pie. :)

  10. janet, i especially like that green nut photo. are pecans in the same family as hickory?

  11. oh...just answered my question at the vanderbilt site!

  12. I didn't realize they got so big! I love pecans and that Derby pie sounds great!

  13. OK, I couldn't go past the pie part. I worked at a hotel on Capitol Square in Richmond where the restaurant served a version of pecan pie with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate on the bottom of the crust and the filling was heavily flavored with Jack Daniels. It sounds like Derby Pie, but I think that has the chocolate running through it. I guess I will have to conduct some very detailed and extensive research to settle the question.

  14. Janet,

    I just love Pecan Trees not many around Durham, but just south of here you can see lots of them. I like the way the shape of the tree gives away the ID.

  15. Where I grew up, it was a custom to plant a pecan tree with the birth of each child. Of course, that was over 50 years ago and that tradition dyed out as people seldom live in the same home their entire lives anymore.


  16. Good morning Tina, I wonder if you have a pecan tree in our yard you feel overwhelmed by the volumn of pecans each year? Thanks for the additional info about when they leaf out.

    Hi Nancy, Glad you like the tree series, it is pie seson isn't it??

    Hi Rosey, you are a nut! Pecans are good in so many dishes or alone! Thanks for following me as well.

    Hi Nell Jean, Fall is certainly the operative word isn't it? Interesting about the differences with the tree.

    Hi Racquel, I didn't realize you had one in your yard, but now that I think about it, I do remember that there is one. Old brain!

    Hi Phillip, Thanks for the tip.

    Hi Noelle, the Pecan is a super shade tree. Interesting that you have some in your area of Arizona.

    Hi Rose, It is amazing how large these trees can get. Toasted pecans are great on salads...will have to get some out of the freezer! We came across Derby Pie when we lived at Ft. Knox.

    Hi Sweetbay, I don't know Tar Heel Pie, will have to Google it.

    Hi Daricia, yes, part of the Hickory family. Glad you are using the references!

    Hi Catherine, really mature trees are so grand. Give Derby pie a try!

    Hi Les, I suspect you will research it for a long time...with many calories!

    Hi Randy, I wonder why there aren't many around Durham? It is a great tree.

    Hi Cameron, It was a nice custom, too bad (in some respects) we are such a mobile society.

  17. This is a wonderful tree, and so is Derby Pie! Yummy. It must have 1000 calories per slice with all those goodies in it. Growing up in Oklahoma, these trees were everywhere. We would collect the nuts around the yard to make all sorts of things, and also learned that the green hulls would stain your hands something awful. Lemon juice helped remove it. Pleasant memories of a delicious nut! :-)
    They took all the trees
    And put them in a tree museum
    Then they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see 'em

  18. Frances--YOU ROCK!!! I love it! (I think 1000 calories is on the light side!)

  19. Janet, I haven't seen any pecan trees in this neighborhood. Must look more closely to see if they are hidden among the oaks and shagbarks. I did want to thank you for helping me id my elm...It's a Winged Elm...I found the wings. Thank you, thank you, thank you. gail

  20. HI Gail, I am so glad you were able to make the ID!! When making an ID gets down to leaf scar I tend to get bleary eyed, but wings...that isn't too hard!

  21. It's funny, I never really gave a thought to where they come from, but now that I see the pictures, I realize I've never seen a pecan tree before. I love the way the nuts grow, they're quite beautiful and geometric.


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