The pecan tree is a member of the hickory family, and, although native to the Mississippi Valley, has been cultivated throughout North America and China. Prized for its edible nuts, the pecan tree is considered a medium to large tree, growing to 110 feet in height. The pecan tree is easily identifiable by its vase shape and rounded crown.
Flowers, Leaves and Fruit
Yellow-green flowers bloom in the spring on the pecan tree. The leaves of the pecan tree are 12 to 20 inches long and grouped together to form leaflets of seven to 17 leaves each, according to National Geographic's “Field Guide to Trees of North America.” The edges of the leaves are serrated and veins are prominent throughout the leaf body. The leaves turn yellow in the fall.
The pecans grow between 1 and 2 1/2 inches long in clusters of three to 10 nuts, maturing in the fall. The husk of the pecan is reddish-brown and thin and the nut splits into four parts, revealing the edible seed inside.
The bark of the pecan tree is gray, with deep fissures and ridges running horizontally up the trunk, according to “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees of the World,” by Tony Russell, Catherine Cutler and Martin Walters. Trunks range in size from two to four feet in diameter, and grow straight. The base of the pecan tree is flared and scaly.
The pecan grows naturally in damp soils in forests and river valleys and its roots form extensive systems because the tree requires 2,000 gallons of water per week, according to “Evaluating Pecan Problems,” by George Ray McEachern. Consequently, poor soil drainage can kill a pecan tree by cutting off the oxygen needed to nourish the roots. Pecan tree roots are also susceptible to cotton root rot, a fungus resulting from high soil pH and high soil temperature combined with poor drainage.