Pecan trees are native to the United States and thrive in hot, southern climates. Pecans have a buttery flavor and are used in various cuisines, particularly desserts. A single tree can produce enough nuts for a large family’s consumption.
A mature pecan tree has a canopy that spreads out and grows up to 150 feet tall, providing significant shade. The trees take 20 to 25 years to mature.
Let’s take a look at the growth stages of a pecan tree.
Following germination, the seed sends out one or more tiny roots to seek water in the soil. After rooting in the earth, a stem pushes out of the casing and starts to grow toward the light.
After a few weeks, the casing will split from the stem and fall away. The seed is now a seedling with budding leaves. The budding pecan tree will grow and expand during the next few years and form more leaves as the tree grows.
The juvenile stage focuses on increasing the sapling’s size and height. The saplings develop whip-like shoots and tighter crotch angles, typical in young plants.
In the spring, young pecan leaves and shoots are reddish. The small plant has a distinct pubescence or hairiness, especially along the lower surface, midrib, and main veins. The leaves of the first season are simple and lack leaflets.
This rapid growing period can span anywhere from 10 to 12 years. A pecan tree’s vegetative growth progresses rapidly over the first 5 to 10 years, then slows down as it nears bud production.
The first flowers usually appear in the upper and peripheral zones of the tree, particularly on branches with appropriate length and thickness that have significant food reserves.
The pecan tree is monoecious, producing separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The female flowers are at the tip of the current season’s growth and will form the nuts if fertilized. The catkins, or male flowers, are found near the base.
Pecans are wind-pollinated, and their pollen can travel long distances. Despite being monoecious, pecan trees require another tree for pollination because female flowers are normally dormant while the catkins release pollen.
It takes approximately 90 days to achieve its full size. The calyx or the female flower’s outermost layer continues to develop in proportion to the expanding nut until it completely envelops it at maturity.
Nuts typically grow in groups of two to six. It spends the first half of its lifecycle developing physically and the second half packing two cotyledons, also known as the kernel, inside the shell or ovary wall. When the outer hull or shuck splits apart, it is considered mature.
The trees will reach maturity and begin to produce seeds after about 12 years. Some pecan trees can live for more than 300 years, an extremely long lifespan.
As mature plants, pecan trees produce hundreds of seeds, which animals, wind, and water disperse
In the fall, the nuts will fall to the ground, where they remain dormant during the winter. Come spring, some of these nuts will germinate, beginning the lifecycle of a new pecan tree.