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Pecan Carya illinoinensis (Carya illinoensis)

 

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Pecan, leaves and fruit
credit: Brad Haire, University of Georgia/CCSA

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Alternate name: Sweet Pecan

Family: Juglandaceae, Walnut view all from this family



Description The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree, growing to 20–40 m (66–130 ft) in height, rarely to 44 m (144 ft); taller trees to 50–55 m (160–180 ft) have been claimed but not verified. It typically has a spread of 12–23 m (39–75 ft) with a trunk up to 2 m (6.6 ft) diameter. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 5 m (16 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, 30–45 cm (12–18 in) long, and pinnate with 9–17 leaflets, each leaflet 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) long and 2–6 cm (0.79–2.4 in) broad. The flowers are wind-pollinated, and monoecious, with staminate and pistillate catkins on the same tree; the male catkins are pendulous, up to 18 cm (7.1 in) long; the female catkins are small, with three to six flowers clustered together.

A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed. The nut itself is dark brown, oval to oblong , 2.6–6 cm (1.0–2.4 in) long and 1.5–3 cm (0.59–1.2 in) broad. The outer husk is 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in) thick, starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled nut.

The nuts of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts but also in some savory dishes. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy, most often associated with New Orleans.

In addition to the pecan nut, the wood is also used in making furniture, in wood flooring, as well as flavoring fuel for smoking meats.


Habitat Mountains, Canyons & valleys, Watersides (fresh).


Range Texas, Plains, Great Lakes, Florida, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic.


Comments The sweet, edible nut, makes pecan the best hickory for fruit production. The tree does not bear liberal quantities of fruit in the northern part of its range, but makes an interesting ornamental there. Susceptible to galls, twig girdlers, aphids, borers, weevils, pecan scab, tent caterpillars, and webworms. Slow-growing. Difficult to transplant because of a large taproot.


Exposure Preference Sun.


Native Distribution Alabama to Texas, n. to Ohio, s.e. Indiana, Illinois, s.e. Iowa & s.e. Kansas


Site Preference Wooded bottomlands; stream banks


Soil Preference Rich, moist, well-drained soils.


Wildlife Value Squirrels, blue jays and other wildlife eat the tiny, immature nuts. Serves as a primary host for some magnificent moths, including the luna, funeral dagger, and giant regal.


 

 

 

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