Texas State Tree
Pecan (common name)
Carya illinoinensis or illinoensis (scientific name)
In 1906, when Texas Governor James Hogg was on his deathbed, he requested a pecan tree be planted at the head of his grave instead of a headstone. The Governor died soon after he made his request, and the pecan was planted as he had wished. The Governor's unique request was remembered by Texans, and is credited for the choice of pecan as the Texas state tree in 1919.
Pecan is an American Indian word, which appears in varied forms in the languages of many of the tribes. Pecan is a kind of hickory, generally considered to be the best-tasting of the hickories, and the most significant of the hickories as a nut crop. It is also the largest of the hickories. Texas and Georgia are the largest producers of commercial pecans in the United States. Pecan is a major agricultural tree, but not top ranked as an ornamental. Pecans are difficult to transplant, and they cannot be counted on to produce good crops of nuts when used as landscape trees.
Pecan is a medium to large native deciduous tree with spreading branches. Its leaves are compound, with 9 to 17 leaflets, each 4 to 7 inches long, and the entire leaf is up to 20 inches long. Its flowers are small and greenish, borne in clusters called catkins. The brown, cylindrical fruit has a fleshy husk that splits longitudinally with an edible nut inside.
Height: 100-150 ft (30-45 m)
Diameter: 6-10 ft (1.8-3.0 m)
Bark: gray, with shallow furrows
Fruit: brown, cylindrical nut, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long
Leaves: 12-18 in (30-45 cm) long, with 9-17 leaflets
The state tree of Texas has a long lifespan. Pecan trees may live and bear edible nuts for more than three hundred years.
Pecan trees grow in hot, humid climates with long growing seasons. They can tolerate wind, drought, and stress. Average summer temperatures in its range are as high as 81°F (27°C) and average winter temperatures are 30° to 50°F (-1° to 10°C). Pecan shares its habitat with sycamore, sweetgum, and American elm, and also occurs in oak-hickory forests.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Pecan nuts are eaten by a number of bird species, fox and gray squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and peccaries. White-tailed deer sometimes heavily browse older pecan trees.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Pecan is an excellent multipurpose tree that provides a source of nuts, furniture-grade wood, and esthetic value. Improved cultivars are extensively grown in the United States and abroad for commercial nut production. Pecan is a difficult tree for the homeowner to cultivate due to its large size and the diseases and pests that must be controlled.
The nuts have a high percentage of fat and are used extensively in candies and cookies, and are also eaten fresh. One of the most common desserts using the pecan as a central ingredient is pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy, most often associated with New Orleans and the South. The Texas Pecan Festival is celebrated each year in Groves, Texas. The leaves and bark are sometimes used as an astringent.
Although pecan wood is inferior to that of other hickories, the demand for pecan wood has steadily increased in recent decades. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, paneling, flooring, pallets, agricultural implements, tool handles, baseball bats, and veneer. The wood has good machining properties, resembling those of true hickories.
The minimum seed-bearing age is two to four years in some cultivars and up to 20 years for individuals in natural stands. The maximum seed-bearing age also varies considerably: a maximum of 300 years has been reported. The flowers are wind-pollinated.
Success of rooting experiments with shoot cuttings vary based on time of collection, thickness and origin of cuttings, chemical treatments, and genetic factors.
Pecan grows commonly on well-drained loam soils that are not subject to prolonged flooding. However, it does appear on heavy textured, bottom soils of recent origin. Its best development
is on riverfront ridges and well-drained flats. It rarely grows on low and poorly drained clay flats; it is usually replaced by water hickory on these sites. Pecan is classified as shade intolerant.
Pecan grows principally in the bottomlands of the Mississippi River Valley. Its range extends westward from southern Indiana through Illinois, southeastern Iowa, and eastern Kansas, south to central Texas, and eastward to western Mississippi and western Tennessee. Pecan occurs in southwestern Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, and central Mexico. Its best commercial development is on riverfront lands of the Mississippi Delta and along major rivers west of the delta to Texas.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press