Pecan

Leaves of the pecan tree.

The pecan is one of the most important native nut trees in North America. It is a large, straight-trunked tree native to river bottoms and rich fertile soils. The nut, a beloved pie ingredient, ripens in the fall.

Botanical name:

Carya illinoinensis

All Common Names:

pecan

Family (English):

Walnut

Family (Botanic):

Juglandaceae

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

70-100 feet

Mature Width:

40-75 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil

Tolerances:

  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Edible fruit

Season of Interest:

  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No

Wildlife:

  • Cavity-nesting birds,
  • Game birds,
  • Small mammals,
  • Songbirds,
  • Water birds

More Information:

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

Prefers moist, deeply rich, well-drained soils. Develops a long taproot, making it difficult to transplant. The wide, weeping canopy of branches and leaves creates filtered shade.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems.

Disease, pest and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southern United States, northward into Indiana and Illinois.
Found commonly in low, wet areas.

Bark color and texture 

Brownish-black bark becomes somewhat scaly with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Large, alternate, compound leaves often 18 to 24 inches in length, with 9 to 17 leaflets.  The leaflets are narrowly elongated with a slight, sickle-shaped hook near the tip.  Leaves are yellow-green and turn yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers relatively inconspicuous;  tiny male flowers in  catkins; small female flowers in terminal spikes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cylindrical, thin-winged husks reveal 2 inch long edible pecans.
The sweetest of the hickories, ripening in the fall.

Location of Carya illinoinensis (Pecan) at the Arboretum