The Pecan Tree (Carya illinoinensis)

Height: A large tree, occasionally reaching 100 feet in height

Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous           

Lifespan: Long-lived tree that often reaches 300 years of age or more  

Fall Foliage: Typically an attractive gold, but sometimes orange  

Range: Historically native to the Mississippi River valley, but now found throughout the southeastern United States   

Typical Habitat: Can be found in a variety of locations throughout the southeastern U.S., but naturally grows best in rich bottomlands.    

The Pecan Tree: The Star of the Hickory Group

Despite the fact that its common name doesn’t include the term “hickory,” the pecan tree is very much a member of the celebrated group – in fact, it’s a member of the same genus as the mockernut (Carya tomentosa) and shagbark (Carya ovata), as well as other familiar hickories.  

And within this group, the pecan is undoubtedly the largest, and it (arguably) produces the tastiest fruit – a fact that makes it as appealing to squirrels, deer, and others as it is to humans. Humans also use the tree’s wood for making furniture and smoking meats.

Identification: Tips & Tricks

Pecan trees are typically pretty easy to identify. For starters, you can just check the ground near mature specimens for the presence of fruit (“nut”) husks or hulls. There may even be nuts present on the tree, which will provide for an easy identification.

But you can also consider the leaves, which are – upon first glance – fairly hickory- or ash-like in appearance. But upon closer inspection, they contain more leaflets; they typically bear 9 to 17 leaflets on each leaf and the terminal leaflet – in contrast to the black walnut (Juglans nigra) — usually stays intact. Finally, the leaflets of the pecan tree are slightly curved, if you need another criteria to consider.

The Pecan Tree: Additional Information

Hungry (apologies) for more info on this fantastic tree? Check out these pecan tree resources to learn more.

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