Pecan, pronounced pih KAHN or pronounced PEE kan, a tree native to North America, is valuable for its fruit, the pecan nut. The pecan is a type of hickory. It grows naturally in the Mississippi Valley region from Iowa southward, and in the river valleys of Oklahoma, Texas, and northern Mexico. But pecan orchards are planted throughout the Southern United States as far north as Virginia, and in California. In addition, a small number of pecans are grown commercially in Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Pecan raising is an important U.S. industry, especially in the South. Pecan orchards produce about 250 million pounds (113 million kilograms) of nuts in an average year. About four-fifths of them are marketed as shelled nuts. Some pecan trees produce up to 500 pounds (230 kilograms) of nuts each year. But the trees do not bear nuts until they are about five or six years old. For another five years, they do not bear enough nuts to be profitable. Only after the trees are about 20 years old does the owner receive full return on the investment. Although the pecan is chiefly grown for its fruit, its wood is valuable for flooring, furniture, and paneling.

Pecan trees may grow 180 feet (55 meters) high. Their trunks are sometimes 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) in diameter near the ground, but most trees are smaller. The light brown or gray bark of pecan trees is deeply furrowed. The leaves are 12 to 20 inches (30 to 51 centimeters) long. They are made up of from 9 to 17 lance-shaped leaflets.

Scientific classification. Pecans belong to the walnut family, Juglandaceae. They are Carya illinoensis.

Contributor: Richard A. Jaynes, Ph.D., Horticulturalist and Consultant, Broken Arrow Nursery..

See also:
About/How To
for growing and harvesting methods.


Nuts & Grains
for recipes