Species Highlight


A mature pecan tree just south of the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in Bickham-Rudkin Park

Carya illinoinensis (Pecan)

As a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ house on late summer afternoons, sitting at the kitchen table with family surrounding a bowl of pecans freshly collected from the tree in the back yard. I would listen to the crack of the shells amidst the chatter of loved ones telling about their day. Pecans, to me, invoke nostalgia of summer’s end, and the beginning of autumn.

It seems like we see fewer pecan trees planted these days, save for the orchards growing east of town. Carya illinoinensis is a tree native to the Cross Timbers forest of Oklahoma, drought tolerant and cold hardy with ample wildlife value. Pecan prefers the fertile soil of creek beds, but also thrives in good soils of more established urban sites. However, it may not be as suited to poor soils of new developments, where the soil profile has recently been disrupted and topsoil removed.

One of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, pecan has historically been a cultural indicator for the last frost of the season. Several different cultivars exist with various forms and resistances to common diseases. This tree needs plenty of room to grow, as it can reach over 80 feet tall on a good site. Planted in an open yard, this tree casts broad, cooling shade and provides a harvest lending one’s appetite to baked goods and after school snacks, or perhaps a good smoker wood for the grill during football season. A tree with longtime value, pecan is an “oldie but goodie” for the landscape.

-Leigh Martin, Urban Forestry Assistant

Leaves and fruit of Carya illinoinensis.