En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - August 01, 2010

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Registered/patented pecan by Foster W. Fort
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hello, we own a historic house museum once owned by the Fort family of Waco, and have learned that Foster W. Fort developed a type of pecan tree and had an orchard somewhere here around Waco (possibly in Downsville), and that these pecans are/were grown no where else. That is all the information from the family history that we can find. I am guessing he developed the tree/hybrid? around 1890-1920. He patented a nut cracker around 1907-1914. Do you know how we can find out if this species was registered/patented? I am currently researching where the original Fort family land was located outside of Waco, and hoping to find some trees. I just have no idea of where to start looking for registered(?) breeds of pecans. Thank you.


After a bit of research, I learned that prior to the Plant Patent Act of 1930 it was not possible to patent a plant variety.  This act, under 35 U.S.C. § 161, reads: “Whoever invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” Then, in 1970 the Plant Variety Protection Certificate (rather than a patent) was created for sexually produced plants.  The code (7 U.S.C. § 2402(a) reads: “[t]he breeder of any sexually reproduced or tuber propagated plant variety (other than fungi or bacteria) who has so reproduced the variety … shall be entitled to plant variety protection for the variety, subject to the conditions and requirements of this chapter, if the variety is” new, distinct, uniform, and stable.  You can read more about the Plant Variety Protection:  An Alternative to Patents.

What this means for you is that Foster W. Fort could not have had a patent on his particular type of pecan tree in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

You might try contacting pecan growers organizations to see if they have any knowledge of this particular pecan variety.  Here are a few possibilities for such contact: Texas Pecan Growers Association, National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA), Pecan Kernel from Texas Cooperative Extension/Texas A&M University System.  The Handbook of Texas Online has an article about the pecan industry in Texas with a bibliography that might be helpful to you.

Finally, your best bet might be to get in contact with L. J. Grauke at the Pecan Breeding & Genetics, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, 10200 FM 50, Somerville, TX 77879 who have online the Pecan Cultivar Index.  You can find his contact information (telephone number and e-mail address) there.


More Trees Questions

Small tree to plant with high bush blueberry plants
May 13, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have four wonderful new highbush blueberry plants. I like to plant a native tree nearby to accent them, but cannot find a suitable one. I'd like a tree that is not going ...
view the full question and answer

Damage to Pine Tree on Cape Cod, MA
June 11, 2013 - My pine tree on Cape Cod has bark that is perforated with holes covering the entire tree. Bark can be removed by hand. Looks dead. What did this?
view the full question and answer

Decline of pollinating bees around Mexican plums
March 19, 2007 - Dear Dr. Smarty Plants While out working in my yard (about nine miles southwest of the Wildfower Center) this morning, I became aware that there was no sound of bees buzzing. I checked our Mexica...
view the full question and answer

Proper watering of cedar elm trees in Sachse, TX
August 15, 2008 - I've just planted two Cedar elm trees in clay soil, each about four inches in diameter, and I want to water them correctly. I'm aware that too much water can be bad as well as too little water. I ...
view the full question and answer

Edible forest garden for northern Minnesota
March 07, 2014 - I am planning an edible forest garden for northern Minnesota. Can you suggest a list of plants that are native to this area. We are in zone 3a or 3b. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center