Height: A large tree, occasionally reaching 100 feet in height
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.
- Missouri Botanical Gardens: Basic information on the species, along with an array of high-quality photographs.
- North Carolina State Extension: Another relatively high-quality but basic source, but it also contains a number of great photos.
- Virginia Tech Dendrology: Primarily identification data, but this resource also provides a helpful range map of the species.