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Pecan Carya illinoinensis

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Pecan:

Phonetic Spelling
KAIR-yuh il-ih-no-in-EN-sis
Description

Hardy pecan is a native shade tree in the Juglandaceae family and is the largest of the hickories.  It is grown mostly for its delicious edible nuts that appear in the summer after an insignificant bloom. Pollination is the second most important factor in purchasing pecan trees. Pecan trees are monoecious: they have separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Pollen is not released when flowers are receptive, so pollination within and between the same cultivars is limited. Cultivars are separated into type I and type II for pollination purposes. For optimum pollination, NC State Extension recommends planting at least three cultivars with at least one of each pollination type for best cross-pollination. Type I cultivars include ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Pawnee.’ Type II cultivars include ‘Stuart’, ‘Sumner’, ‘Forkert’, ‘Gloria Grande’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Chickasaw’, and ‘Elliot.’ All cultivars have positive and negative attributes, so do your research before purchasing.

Nut production can be reduced in the northern part of its growing range, especially when spring is late and the summer is cool. It can be difficult to transplant due to a deep taproot so choose your planting location wisely with its large mature size in mind.   You can grow it from seed, but it will take the better part of a decade before the tree produces a significant crop.  Pecans tolerate being planted near black walnut trees.  This tree requires a medium amount of maintenance. Due to its size this is a tree most appropriate for a large property.

Seasons of Interest:

    Fruit: Summer-fall, nut

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Aphids, pecan weevils, twig girdlers, and fall webworms can cause some issues.  Scab can infect both nuts and foliage, but scab resistant cultivars are available.  Pecans are known for their brittle branches prone to breakage and late frosts can reduce nut production.  

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves alternate, pinnately compound
  • Leaflets falcate, crenate

Pecan trees can reach up to 130 feet in height but will usually grow 70 to 100 feet tall with a spread of 40 to 75 feet. The largest of the hickories, this deciduous American native tree has a uniform, symmetrical, broadly oval crown and is massively-branched. Large major limbs grow up and out from the trunk in a distinctive upright, spreading fashion. On older trees, lower branches become wide-sweeping, with their tips almost touching the ground. Trunks can grow to six feet in diameter. 

Full sun -partial shade. Tolerates well-drained clay sand loam alkaline acidic soils. High drought tolerance. 

Native to North America.

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Cape Fear', 'Chicksaw', 'Elliot', 'Fokert', 'Gloria Grande', 'Kiowa', 'Pawnee', 'Stuart', 'Sumner'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#wildlife plant#large tree#native tree#moths#playground#edible nuts#nuts#cpp#NC native#buffer#children's garden#screening#edible garden#fantz#clay soils tolerant#moth larvae#ebh#ebh-fn
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Cape Fear', 'Chicksaw', 'Elliot', 'Fokert', 'Gloria Grande', 'Kiowa', 'Pawnee', 'Stuart', 'Sumner'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#wildlife plant#large tree#native tree#moths#playground#edible nuts#nuts#cpp#NC native#buffer#children's garden#screening#edible garden#fantz#clay soils tolerant#moth larvae#ebh#ebh-fn
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Carya
    Species:
    illinoinensis
    Family:
    Juglandaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & E. Central U.S.A. to Mexico
    Wildlife Value:
    Larval host plant to the Luna moth.
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Edible fruit
    Screening
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Edibility:
    Nuts are edible.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 70 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 40 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Very Dry
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Sweet edible nuts with a husk that splits into four sections when they ripen in the fall. Husk begins green and dries to brown. The nut is oval to round, 1-3" long, tan to brown with darker streaking.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Insignificant, monoecious, appear April-May. Male flowers are 4"-long yellow-green catkins, female flowers are shorter spikes.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, medium green, 4-8" pinnately compound leaf with 9-17 leaflets; yellow fall color. Leaflets are lanceolate with serrate margins. Midrib of leaf and leaflets may be curved. Fewer and longer leaflets than black walnut.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Bark Description:
    Grey-brown bark and rectangular furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Scales:
    No scales, covered in hair
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Encircles a bud
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Grey-brown stems, raised lenticels, and pubescent buds in a U-shaped leaf scar.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought