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Wednesday - February 26, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Lifespan of pecan from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What is the lifespan of a pecan tree? I've seen several places say up to a thousand years, but I'd always thought it was closer to around 300 years. Thanks!


Since you are in Austin, as is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, we are going to direct you to our webpage on Carya illinoinensis (Pecan). It does not mention a possible lifetime length, but does have a couple lines in it we thought you would appreciate.

"The largest of the hickories, pecan typically grows 70-100 ft. and can reach 160 ft."

"Pecan is one of the most valuable cultivated plants originating in North America. Improved varieties with large, thin-shelled nuts are grown in plantations or orchards in the Southeast; pecans are also harvested locally from wild trees."

From this USDA Plant Profile Map, you will see that it is, indeed, native to Travis County, and could be counted to grow as long there as anywhere else. So, we will look to other resources for estimates on the lifespan of this tree.

From Plants for a Future, we found this statement:

"Trees come into bearing when about 20 years old, the best period of production being between the ages of 75 to 225 years old."

From an eHow article: The Average Lifespan of a Pecan Tree

"Life Span

  • A healthy pecan tree has a long life. Planted when a child is born, as an adult that individual would be able to harvest the pecan tree's nuts well into her 60s or 70s. A "whip" or sapling will go through a long period of juvenility before reaching its precocity stage."

"The Texas State Tree
The Pecan treee (Carya illinoensis) was designated the official state tree of Texas in 1919 (and the pecan was adopted as the state health nut in 2001). Fossil remains found in Texas show that our native pecan tree was here long before humans came on the scene. Remarkably long lived, the pecan can survive more than a thousand years and grow over 100 feet tall."
So, we have a lot of stories and estimates, but no established fact. There just must not have been an entity 1000 years ago in existence that wrote down "Today, we planted a pecan tree." And then, that entiity continued over 1000 years to enter every year the information that the plant was still alive. Frankly, if I get a nice sprinkling of pecans on my ice cream sunday, I don't care how old the tree was that bore them, and if I were to plant one today, I sure wouldn't expect to live to see the tree die of old age.

From the Image Gallery

Carya illinoinensis

Carya illinoinensis

Carya illinoinensis

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