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Pecan Tree Identification

By Frank Whittemore ; Updated September 21, 2017

Pecan trees are large, stately trees that are native to much of the United States. They are frequently cultivated for their nut, the meat of which is delicious. The wood of the tree is also valuable and is often used for flooring, fine furniture and cabinetmaking. With a substantial form and few requirements for care and pruning, pecan trees also make an excellent addition to the landscape as a shade tree.


Pecan trees grow in USDA hardiness zones 6 through to 9 in the United States. The tree prefers full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. Pecans grow in a range of soil conditions, from acidic to alkaline, and sandy to rich loamy soils. They are found growing wild in hardwood forests, as a cultivated crop in orchards and as a landscape tree in residential settings.


The pecan tree can grow to over 100 feet high and can spread up to 75 feet wide. Its growth rate is medium, adding up to 2 feet per year. The crown of pecan trees is roughly rounded or oval in shape, with a fairly dense canopy. Wild pecan trees tend to be more pyramidal in shape.

Trunk, Branches and Bark

The trunk is usually a straight central leader and can reach up to 6 feet in diameter. The branches tend to grow out and up from the central trunk. Older branches often remain on the lower portions of the trunk. The bark is light gray in color, rough in appearance and texture and relatively thin.


The leaves of the pecan tree are compound, made up of as many as a dozen lance-shaped leaflets that form opposite each other down the length of the central stem with a single leaflet at the end. Each leaflet is 4 to 8 inches long. The leaves are medium green during the growing season and turn to a bright yellow in the fall. Because pecan trees are deciduous, they drop their leaves during winter.

Flower and Fruit

The yellow flower of the pecan tree is tiny and inconspicuous, forming on the branches of the tree in spring. The fruit of the tree is a dry nut, with a hard outer shell that is ovoid in shape. The nuts vary from 1 to 3 inches in length. The inner portion of the nut contains a kernel that is medium brown in color, sweet tasting and meaty in texture.


About the Author


In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.