Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Carya illinoinensis


Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)

Carya illinoinensis (Pecan)
Smith, R.W.
The largest of the hickories, pecan typically grows 70-100 ft. and can reach 160 ft. It is massive-trunked, with stout branches supporting a symmetrical, oval crown. Slate gray bark remains smooth for years. Pinnately-compound, deciduous leaves are 12-20 in. long with 11-17 leaflets. Midrib of the leaflet off center with the wider part of the blade toward the leaf tip. Flowers inconspicuous, male in elongate clusters, both sexes on same tree. Fruit an oblong nut enclosed in a thin husk splitting open at maturity, husk often persistent on the tree for weeks after the nut has fallen.

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. The wood is used for furniture, flooring, veneer, and charcoal for smoking meats. The word pecan is of Algonquin origin. The Latin species name is from an old term, Illinois nuts, and refers to the region where traders found wild trees and nuts. Native Americans may have extended the range by planting. This tree of the Mississippi valley was unknown to British colonists on the Atlantic coast. Thomas Jefferson planted seeds at Monticello and gave some to George Washington; now these Pecans are the oldest trees in Mount Vernon.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Nut
Leaf: Yellow-Green
Size Class: More than 100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MS , MO , NC , OH , OK , SC , TN , TX , VA
Native Distribution: AL to TX, n. to OH, s.e. IN, IL, s.e. IA & s.e. KS
Native Habitat: Wooded bottomlands; stream banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, moist, well-drained soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: The sweet, edible nut, makes pecan the best hickory for fruit production. The tree does not bear liberal quantities of fruit in the northern part of its range, but makes an interesting ornamental there. Susceptible to galls, twig girdlers, aphids, borers, weevils, pecan scab, tent caterpillars, and webworms. Slow-growing. Difficult to transplant because of a large taproot.


Use Ornamental: Excellent nut and shade tree, fall conspicuous.
Use Wildlife: Fruit mammals and birds, Substrate-insectivorous birds.
Use Food: Fruits-nutrition
Use Other: Furniture, veneer for wood paneling, charcoal.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Gray hairstreak butterfly

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Carya illinoinensis is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Gray Hairstreak
(Strymon melinus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-11-13