The pecan tree is also known as Carya illinoensis, and it is a tree that was present in America over 8,000 years ago. According to the American Forests Organization, the name comes from the Algonquin word "pacane" meaning "nut so hard as to require a stone to crack." Pecan trees are native only to North America, and can be found in states from Illinois to Texas. Thomas Jefferson had pecan trees at Monticello, and George Washington grew them at Mount Vernon.
The chosen site for a pecan tree is of utmost importance, and it is this first step that is the cornerstone of the life of a pecan tree. The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree reaching heights of 100 to 150 feet at maturity, thus space is of the utmost importance. When choosing a site you must allow from 35 to 50 feet between trees (the pecan tree is a cross-pollinator--requiring two trees for pollination), and due to the extensive root system 60 to 80 feet away from any building/structure. Well-drained soil is also important to site selection.
Cross-Pollination and Planting Time
The pecan nuts are produced by cross-pollination. In order for your pecan tree to produce nuts, two varieties of pecan trees should be planted. The months of December, January and February are when the trees should be planted. This will give them time to establish themselves before the growing season.
Pecan trees that are grown by the homeowner generally produce nuts after three years. Nuts are harvested in mid-October into November. The homeowner usually harvests the nuts by using a long pole to knock the nuts off of the tree. Squirrels also love pecans and can eat the pecans before you have a chance to harvest them. Harvesting pecans in a commercial setting is accomplished by the use of a trunk or limb shaker that literally shakes the nuts off of the tree.
Pecan wood is a hardwood, and it is considered very valuable in the production of furniture. It is also used in the production of pianos, gymnasium and roller rink floors, as well as tool handles, ladder rungs and gymnastic bars. Lumber must be dried out and seasoned. Pecan wood has a lot of moisture present, and it takes a long time to dry and season the raw wood for lumber. It also has a high shrinkage factor. However, the wood is prized for its grain, color and hardness.
A very small percentage of pecans are exported (approximately 15 percent). The pecan is not part of the European diet; instead they have acquired the walnut into their diet. Most of our exported pecans are shipped to Canada.