|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Pecan, Carya Pecan, Engler and Graeb. (Carya olivaeformis, Nutt. Hicoria Pecan, Brit.). Plate LXXV, Vol. IV. Of the nuttrees native to North America, the pecan unquestionably ranks first in economic importance. This is true both because of the quantity and value of the wild crop and because of its cultural promise. The acceptability of the quality of the kernel and the relative thinness of shell and ease of cracking in contrast with the other hickories and the native walnuts, have since an early day continued to win favor among consumers, so that the wild crop of Louisiana and Texas long ago assumed commercial importance and for at least thirty years has, in the latter state, been systematically harvested and distributed in carload shipments to northern markets.
The relatively wide climatic range of the species and the extent of variation in form, size, and quality of nut have stimulated effort to develop methods of nursery propagation in widely separated localities. This has resulted in a larger and more widely scattered development of commercial nursery propagation of the pecan than of any other nut-tree.
Under favorable conditions of growth, the pecan tree attains very large size, trunk diameters of 4 to 6 feet being not infrequent, with heights ranging from 100 to 175 feet and tops spreading 60 to 70 feet. Some of the largest trees reported were in the Wabash Valley, near the northern limit of natural distribution. A tree having a girth of 18 feet 3 inches breast high from the ground, with an estimated height of 130 feet and a spread of 125 feet, is recorded by Reed in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. One having a girth of 19 feet 6 inches with an estimated height of 150 feet and spread of 100 feet, is recorded in Nachitoches Parish, Louisiana. A still larger tree near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, has the following dimensions: Girth 23 feet 9 inches at 3 feet from ground; estimated height 180 feet.
The pecan is one of the hickories which comprise an American group of great interest. The trees are monoecious; that is, the male and female (staminate and pistillate) are separate on the same plant. (Fig. 2822; adapted from Bulletin No. 251, Bureau of Plant Industry.) The staminate or pollen-bearing flowers are in slender hanging catkins, and the pistillate or fruits bearing flowers are in small erect or stiff clusters (Fig. 823, page 676). Several of the staminate or male flowers are shown separately at a, Fig. 2822, and one of the pistillate or female flowers at b.
Natural and cultural range.
The species is native in river-bottoms and lowlands of the Mississippi River and its tributaries as far north as Davenport, Iowa; Covington, Kentucky; Terre Haute, Indiana; and the vicinity of Kansas City, Missouri. It is also found throughout most of the river-valleys of Texas and the adjacent parts of Mexico. It does not appear to have been found native at any point in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. It thus occurred wild in considerable regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, and small areas in southeastern Nebraska and southeastern Iowa. The species was scatteringly introduced throughout the southeastern states from Florida northward to Virginia at an early date, so that trees of considerable age are found at many points in them. The earliest efforts at commercial planting appear to have been made in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, but some of the greatest activity in this direction in recent years has been outside of the native habitat, in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, and considerable plantings have been made also in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and some on the Pacific Coast in California and Oregon.
Climatic and soil requirements.
Much confusion of thought with regard to the climatic range of the pecan nas resulted from failure to recognize the difference in cold endurance of wild trees of the species in different parts of its native range. Rather early in the period of pecan exploitation, which began about 1885-1890, nuts and young trees of the large varieties conspicuous in the exhibits and advertising matter of that time were planted at many points in the northern states. These rather promptly succumbed to the winter temperatures of the North, very few surviving north of the Potomac, Ohio, and Missouri rivers. More recently, trees well worthy of propagation because of the good size and excellent quality of their nuts have been found in the surviving wild groves of the Ohio and Wabash valley bottoms in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, which give promise of enduring the winters considerably farther north, and which are now in process of experimental introduction. On suitable soils it now appears probable that among these varieties of northern origin may be found sorts fairly well adapted to most of the eastern United States.
Though practically restricted in its native distribution to the low-lying moist sandy loams of the river- and creek-bottoms, gradually accumulated experience has demonstrated the suitability under cultivation of a wide range of soils. The essentials are good depth and fertility, adequate drainage, and freedom from drought. Shallow soils underlaid with hardpan or other impervious strata and loose droughty sands are unsuitable, as are mucks and peats. Occasional overflow, as experienced on creek- and river-bottom lands, is beneficial, but the pecan is about as sensitive to a water-logged soil condition as most orchard trees.
While the orchards thus far planted are too young to determime with accuracy, the area of profitable commercial planting will, from present indications, be south of Pennsylvania and Iowa with some probability of success under irrigation in the Southwest and in the great valley of California.
Propagation and top-working.
Few of the earlier efforts to perpetuate trees bearing superior nuts by budding and grafting were successful, the methods commonly practised with fruit-trees in the Gulf States not proving effective with the pecan. Because of this, most of the plantings prior to 1900 were of seedling trees grown from selected parents, even where orchards as large as 500 acres were involved.
Occasionally skilful propagators succeeded in securing fair stands with crown-, trunk- and top-grafting, however, and some by annular-, patch- and chip- budding, so that by 1895 there were a number of budded and grafted trees of several choice varieties growing in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and a few nurseries offering such trees for sale.
The earliest successful grafting was by Antoine, a slave gardener, on Oak Alley Plantation, St. James Parish, Louisiana, who, under the instruction of his owner, the late Telesphore J. Roman, in 1846 or 1847 succeeded in trunk-grafting sixteen trees of the variety later named the Centennial (Fig. 2823). Somewhat later he propagated 110 more trees of the same variety, so that 126 grafted trees of this variety were growing on that plantation at the end of the Civil War. About 1877, the late Emil Bourgeois, of Central, Louisiana, successfully top-grafted the variety now known as the Van Deman upon his Rapidan Plantation in the same parish, while in 1882 the Rome and Frotscher, as well as Centennial, were propagated by Wm. Nelson in the nursery of the late Richard Frotscher at New Orleans from the original trees in St. James and Iberia parishes. In 1886, the variety now known as Stuart was successfully budded by the- late A. G. Delmas on his place at Pascagoula, Mississippi, from the original tree of that sort on the Castanera place near by.
Successful top-working of wild trees was accomplished by E. E. Risien, of San Saba, Texas, about 1889. He transformed a number of such trees by cutting back heavily in late winter with a cross-cut saw, practically beheading trees of diameters up to 12 to 15 inches at points 20 to 30 feet from the ground. An abundant growth of strong shoots was secured by hacking the bark of the trunk for some distance down from the stubs. A sufficient number of the best of these shoots were budded in July by the annular method quickly to develop a symmetrical top. The San Saba variety was chiefly used, the original tree of this standing on Risien's place.
Although most early efforts failed,as propagators have acquired experience in pecan-prapogation most of the methods of budding and grafting practised on the apple and pear have been found to succeed, so that at the present time practically all except shield-budding are more or less practised. The methods most commonly used by nurserymen are ordinary cleft- and whip-grafting, and annular-, patch-, and chip-budding.
While there has been much discussion of other stocks for the pecan and considerable individual experimentation with mockernut (Carya alba), pignut (Carya glabra), and water-hickory (Carya aquatica), commercial nursery propagation is practically all upon pecan stocks. Nuts from trees of vigorous growth, yielding well-filled kernels, are preferred for seed and should be from a region at least as far north as that where trees are to be planted to insure stocks of sufficient cold-endurance. Nuts for seed should not be permitted to dry out before planting in fall, or, if spring-planted, should be stratified in moist sand soon after harvest.
Soil for the nursery should be rich, deep, friable, and well drained, as the control of growth during the propagating season necessitates maintenance of a high state of cultivation with which clods, stones, or continued wetness seriously interfere. Nursery rows should be 5 to 6 feet apart, with nuts planted 8 to 12 inches apart in the row, 2 to 3 inches deep.
When stocks exceed 3/4 inch in diameter at the point of grafting, cleft-grafting is preferred. If done above ground, the grafted stub should be securely bound with raffia or waxed cord to avoid splitting, and then thoroughly waxed and wrapped with waxed cloth to exclude air and moisture. Cions should be entirely dormant and have all exposed cut ends waxed to reduce evaporation. All grafting in place is best done shortly in advance of the pushing of buds on the stock. When stocks are under 3/4 inch in diameter at the crown, ordinary whip-grafting in place is considerably practised, selecting cions as near the size of the stock as practicable and tying securely with raffia or waxed cloth. (Figs. 2826 and 2827.) Bench-graft ing, though possible, is rarely practised with the pecan.
On account of the length of season during which these methods may be practised, annular- and patch- budding have been widely adopted by pecan-propagators, and special tools for cutting the "rings" and patches" have come into general use in the southern states (Figs. 2828 and 2829), though expert operators succeed well with the ordinary budding-knife. These methods may be used at any time during the growing season when the bark of both stock and cion "slip" well and the bark and buds of the new growth on the cion trees are sufficiently mature to endure the necessary manipulation. The essentials are good "slipping" condition of both stock and cion, close fitting of "rings" or "patches," secure tying with raffia or other suitable material, careful attention to removal of ties and gradual heading back of stock as growth proceeds to avoid "drowning out" the bud, and after growth begins the protection of it against splitting off or breaking down by wind and storms, by tying up to stubs or stakes. (Fig. 2830.)
One of the simplest and most effective methods is that long used by E. W. Kirkpatrick, of McKinney, Texas, commonly known as "chip-budding." This may be practised prior to and during the early growing season. Dormant cions are used. It consists essentially of the removal of a "chip" from the stock and its replacement by a bud-bearing chip of approximately identical size from the cion, which is securely tied in place without waxing. As this method requires only the ordinary budding-knife and is equally applicable to walnut, persimmon, and other species rather difficult to propagate, it is growing in favor, especially in Louisiana and Texas.
With all methods of budding and grafting, both in nursery and orchard, careful attention to the tying up of the young buds during the first growing season is required. Their soft and luxuriant growth renders them peculiarly subject to destruction by storms, the only effective protection against which is secure tying to stock, stubs, or stakes.
The large number of seedling trees in orchards and gardens yielding nuts of indifferent quality is arousing much interest in top-working. This can be done by all methods described, but all top-budding or grafting should be as low in the tree as practicable to prevent the head from becoming "leggy and "prongy.
Successful methods of budding and grafting the pecan are described by Charles L. Edwards, of Texas. The budding method is shown in Fig. 1686; page 1367, Vol. III. The crown-graft or crown-bud is shown in Fig. 2832 and is described as follows: "Buds from wood that has partially lost its vitality, or has been injured by sap starting before it is cut or after it is cut in early spring, may often be saved by this method when all others fail. But the work must be carefully done and instructions strictly observed, for if the bud is lost, the remaining stock is badly disfigured. The stock is cut off bodily at the desired height. A slit is then made at the top, the bark opened, the bud inserted and part of the flaps of bark pared away. Then the wrapper is put on so as to cover not only the cut made for the insertion of the bud, but the top of stump also. The wrapper should cover not only the stump, but should be long enough at the top to pass over and go down far enough on the opposite side to be caught by the string used for tying on the bud. The waxed cloth covering the top of the stump should be pressed down firmly before tying, and if the top of the stump is 3/4 inch across or more, there should be two thicknesses of cloth put over it and firmly pressed down. On large stumps, two buds may be placed on opposite sides so as to increase chances of a 'take .' If both buds live, one of the shoots may be removed later. In working over-grown nursery seedlings and stout wildings, this has been found to be an excellent plan, With good workmanship and favorable weather conditions, excellent savings may be had, and the bud shoots make a beautiful upright growth, with the slightest crook at the point of union. And, oddly enough, they grow straight without stakes to support them, even in a windy country. Buds put on in March and April on nursery stocks easily make a salable tree with 4 to 6 feet of bud-growth the same season in Texas. In summer work, the modified shield-bud may be peeled from the cion, but it is well to cut them to beveled edges on the sides (D, Fig. 2832) before removing from the cion. The bark of the stock fits down over them more snugly when so treated and they seem to live better. But the lower ends should always be so trimmed as to remove the fleshy rim of bark at the lower end, in order that the inner bark of the Bud and the inner bark of the stock may be brought into contact. The flaps of bark folding down over the bud should always be pared down, so that the waxed wrappers may fit close and exclude those pestiferous little insects that get in under other forms of wrapper and destroy so many buds. Another thing requiring eternal vigilance is to be sure that sap is flowing more freely in the stocks than in the budwood."
The large size of the tree and the lack of any suitable dwarfing stock render wider planting necessary than for other orchard trees. Many of the earlier orchards were spaced at 40 or 50 feet, with some planted as close as 25 feet, with a view to thinning out to 50feet after some years of bearing. Accumulated experience indicates that upon all soils suitable for the pecan, a distance of 60 feet will be required before the age of maximum productiveness is reached, and that closer planting than this is inadvisable unless in sections where growth of trees thirty years old and upward indicates that closer distances will not involve harmful crowding and shading, to which the pecan as a nut-bearer is peculiarly sensitive. Well-ripened trees two years from the bud or graft are preferred by most planters and 24 to 30 inches of tap-root is retained in transplanting. In the Gulf States, planting is usually done during the winter months and completed by February, to insure thorough settling of earth and callusing of roots before growth starts. Special care to prevent drying put during shipment ana handling is necessary, protection against sun and wind and thorough soaking of roots before planting being advisable.
Holes should be of ample size, 6 to 8 inches deeper than the roots require, and be filled in at bottom with good top-soil. Fertilizer should not be in contact with roots.
The unsatisfactory behavior of close-planted orchards and the necessity of deriving profit from the land during the six to twelve years before the trees come into bearing have given rise to varied practice in intercropping. Peaches, Satsuma oranges, truck crops, cotton, corn, and the like, are used in various sections. It is essential on most soils to maintain good cultivation throughout the growing season. This is satisfactorily accomplished with cotton, corn, truck crops, cowpeas or other tilled crops, provided fertility is maintained by adequate fertilizer application and plowing in of leguminous cover-crops. The laying down of pecan orchards in Bermuda-grass for pasture or mowing even on the deep moist soils of the Mississippi Delta has invariably oeen followed by stunting of growth and lessened productiveness of trees. The use of winter cover-crops such as hairy vetch and bur clover for plowing under in spring has everything to commend it.
Harvesting and marketing.
The preferred practice in harvesting is to permit the nuts to fall as the hulls open, gathering frequently to prevent soiling by contact with the ground. As the efficiency of this method is largely dependent on the continuance of clear and reasonably dry weather throughout the harvest season, it is usually necessary gently to "thresh" the later-maturing portion of the crop from the trees with bamboo or other light poles. Premature threshing results both in an immature quality of crop and in injury to the trees through the breaking off of fruit-spurs. After gathering, the nuts should be cured by storing in a cool dry place for two or three weeks, during which time there is some loss of weight by evaporation of moisture, after which they are ready for marketing.
A considerable portion of the wild crop is washed and polished by friction in revolving barrels or drums. Some tinting of the nuts with dye is also practised. While polishing and tinting are not in themselves harmful, they have so frequently been used to conceal inferiority of damaged or stale nuts and such as are immature that discriminating purchasers show preference for the nuts in their natural state. This is specially true with regard to the product of the named varieties, which is coming to be sold on known varietal merit as to cracking quality, plumpness of kernel, flavor, and the like. While the product of cultivated orchards still constitutes but a small proportion of the market supply, it is destined to early and considerable increase.
Marketing by parcel post direct to consumers is coming into practice and cooperative selling by growers associations is being undertaken to some extent.
Prices of wild nuts have risen considerably in recent years as the result of increased demand from commercial crackers. Prices of the leading orchard varieties, though gradually receding from the fictitious and novelty values of the exploitation period, range from 30 to 50 cents a pound wholesale, with good demand, and retail at 50 to 75 cents in most markets.
The fact that until about 1900 there were few nurserymen able to propagate the pecan by budding and grafting, coupled with the very high prices received for choice nuts from certain individual trees, stimulated the sale of nuts from such trees under varietal names for the planting of seedling orchards throughout the Gulf States. This was true to a large extent with regard Deman, Post, and Hollis, thousands of seedlings of which in dooryards and orchards are now found throughout the South. These seedlings, while frequently bearing a general resemblance to the parent, usually vary widely in important features and, as might be expected, in a large proportion of instances are inferior to the parent variety. Names have in many cases been applied to the nuts of wild trees sold for planting, with the result that much confusion has existed in the varietal nomenclature. The adoption of a code of nomenclature by the National Nut- Growers Association in 1903, and its systematic application by a standing committee of that organization, has to a large extent clarified the situation in recent years.
The adaptability of varieties to sections, including the important feature of relative resistance to such diseases as scab under varying climatic conditions, is gradually being worked out and is essential to the establishment of commercial pecan-growing on an economically sound basis. At the present time there is much working over of trees of bearing age in progress, with the end in view of replacing the varieties originally planted by those found better adapted to the regional or local conditions.
Out of several hundred named trees, somewhat more than one hundred varieties have been propagated by nurserymen. Of these, many are as yet untested out- side of the localities of their origin. Some twenty to thirty sorts have been sufficiently distributed for a long enough time to afford indication of their probable cultural range and value, with the result that a number of the earlier distributed varieties, including Centennial, Jewett, and Rome, and a number of sorts of local repute, have been practically discarded by planters.
The varietal adaptability of the pecan so far as possible to summarize as the result of several years of systematic study in the field was outlined by Reed in 1915 (Farmers' Bulletin No. 700, "Pecan Culture," with special reference to varieties and propagation) as follows:
Varieties now considered best for planting in the plains section of southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina are the Stuart, Mantura, Van Deman, Moneymaker, Schley, Pabst, and James.
Varieties which may be recommended for eastern South Carolina, eastern and central Georgia, central Alabama, and central Mississippi are the Schley, Stuart, Van Deman, Moneymaker, James, and Carman.
Varieties for planting in south Georgia and north Florida are the Schley, Curtis, Bradley, Alley, Van Deman, Stuart, Moneymaker, President, Pabst, and Russell.
Varieties for central and north Florida: Curtis, Bradley, Kennedy, President, Schley, Van Deman, and Moneymaker.
Varieties for the coastal section of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana: Schley, Curtis, Alley. Van Deman, Russell, Stuart, Pabst, Success, and Havens.
Varieties for east Texas: Very few sorts have been given a fair trial in this section. The varieties here mentioned are recommended very largely because of their performance farther east. They are the Stuart, Moneymaker, Schley, Curtis, Van Deman, Bradley, Carman, and James.
Varieties for west Texas: Sovereign (syn. Texas Prolific), Kincaid, Colorado, San Saba, Halbert, and Burkett.
Varieties for northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi: Very few sorts have been given a fair trial in this section. The following varieties are mentioned because of certain evidence of superior hardiness which they have shown and the general merit of the nuts themselves, but they are recommended for conservative planting only: Moneymaker, Carman, Stuart, Van Deman, Schley, Pabst, and Success.
Varieties for the section including central and western Tennessee, central and western Kentucky, southern Indiana, southern and southwestern Illinois, eastern and southern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas: Only varieties of northern or local origin should be considered for planting in this general area, as none of the southern sorts is sufficiently hardy to justify their recommendation. The best of these are the Major, Niblack, Indiana, Busseron, and Posey.
Some of the best known sorts now in the trade, with locality of origin indicated, are the following:
- Do you have cultivation info on this plant? Edit this section!
- Do you have propagation info on this plant? Edit this section!
Pests and diseases
- Do you have pest and disease info on this plant? Edit this section!
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963