The pecan is found naturally in alluvial soils and bottomlands of the lower Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as other riverbottoms throughout its range, especially in Texas. Pecans and other hardwoods occur naturally in those bottomlands, but if they comprise more than 50 percent of the native forest biomass, the area is classified as a climax pecan forest. Established climax pecan forests became the first commercial pecan production groves in the mid-1800s.
Space To Grow
When given sufficient space to grow, the pecan can soar to 100 to 120 feet, a large deciduous tree with an upright, vase-shaped crown. The trunk diameter can reach 3 to 4 feet. It tends to have a relatively short, bare trunk before its many forked branches appear. The national champion pecan resides in Weatherford, Texas, boasting a height of 91 feet, a crown spread of 120 feet, and a circumference of 257 inches.
Pecan and other hickory woods are rated as the number three hardwood group in the United States. It falls behind only black walnut and black cherry in terms of value. Carya illinoensis has close-grained, hard wood that is pale reddish-brown with occasional dark streaks.
Pecan is difficult to dry because its high moisture content leads to heavy shrinkage during the process, but once properly seasoned the wood is stable and reliable. You’ll see pecan wood used for furniture, tool handles, skis, gymnastic bars, flooring material for gymnasiums and roller skating rinks, windows and doors, piano construction, and ladder rungs.
Also known as Pecan Nut, Pecan Hickory, Sweet Pecan, Nogal Morado, and Pecanier.
It’s name is an English contraction of the Native American “powcohicora.” In Eastern North America, it survived the catastrophic changes of the Glacial Epoch, some 50 million years ago. Thus, it is the first strictly American hardwood species.
Westward trekking pioneers made hickory a prerequisite for their wagon wheels. Later, the Wright Brothers whittled hickory for their “flying contraption.” Hickory sawdust and chips are used to flavor meat by smoking.
Commercially, the pecan is the most important native North American nut tree. Pecan was a Native American name given to any nut hard enough to require cracking with a stone. Native Americans, particularly in the Northeast, used hickory for their bows.
Where it Grows
Eastern U.S., principal commercial areas: Central and Southern states. Tree height ranges from 60 to 120 feet. Hickories grow slowly and it is not unusual for a tree to take 200 years to mature.
2.2 percent of total U.S. hardwoods commercially available.
The hickories are an important group within the Eastern hardwood forests. Botanically they are split into two groups; the true hickories, and the pecan hickories (fruit bearing). The wood is virtually the same for both and is usually sold together. Hickory is the hardest, heaviest and strongest American wood. The sapwood of hickory is white, tinged with inconspicuous fine brown lines while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown. Both are coarse-textured and the grain is fine, usually straight but can be wavy or irregular.
The heaviest of American hardwoods, the hickories can be difficult to machine and glue, and are very hard to work with hand tools, so care is needed. They hold nails and screws well, but there is a tendency to split so pre-boring is advised. The wood can be sanded to a good finish. The grain pattern welcomes a full range of medium-to-dark finishes and bleaching treatments. It can be difficult to dry and has high shrinkage.
The density and strength of the hickories will vary according to the rate of growth, with the true hickories generally showing higher values than the pecan hickories. The wood is well-known for its very good strength and shock resistance and it also has excellent steam-bending properties. Extremely tough and resilient, even texture, quite hard and only moderately heavy.
Readily available, more limited if sold selected for color as either red or white hickory.
* Species information has been provided by www.woodworkingnetwork.com