The story about how the pecan tree came to be the Texas state tree is a very interesting one. As James Hogg, the Governor of Texas, lay on his deathbed in 1906, he made a curious request asking that a pecan tree be planted at the head of his grave instead of a headstone. His request was honored, and when he passed shortly after, a pecan tree was planted instead of a headstone. Years later in 1919, when the Texas state tree was being decided, this incident was recollected and is said to have impacted the decision. Fossil remains of pecan trees have been found in Texas to indicate that they were present there long before human inhabitation. Texas is the second leading producer of pecans following Georgia, and a Texas Pecan Festival is celebrated annually in southeast Texas. The southern longleaf pine is the official state tree of Alabama.
The Pecan Tree
It is a species of hickory that grows widely in the United States. These trees are present in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Arkansas. This tall deciduous tree usually grows between the range of 65 to130 ft. A few are even known to grow up to 145 ft. The thick trunk is usually about 10 ft in diameter and its branches spread out to between 40 to 75 ft on an average. Its flowers are wind-pollinated.
The Spanish, who were among the first to come in contact with the plant, were the ones who introduced it in Europe in the early 16th century. They were also responsible for taking it to Asia and Africa. Pecan trees are entwined in American history, as the tree makes repeated appearances in the writing of different founding members of the nation. George Washington recounts in his diary an incident of Thomas Jefferson giving him "Illinois nuts" (pecans). Thomas Jefferson planted several pecan trees in his nut orchard at his magnificent home in Virginia.
The fruit of this tree is an oval or oblong nut. The young nut is green and encased in a shroud of rough husk. This nut turns dark brown on reaching maturity, at which time the husk splits to release the nut. The nuts are edible and rich in proteins, vitamins and antioxidants. They are eaten fresh as a tasty snack, and also used in food to add flavor. Pecan pie, that has a southern signature is a favorite of American cuisine. Pecans are also a chief ingredient in chewy, delicious praline candy.
The multifarious uses of wood of the tree include being fashioned into furniture, agricultural implements, hardwood flooring, baseball bats, firewood, and is used to smoke meats.
The cultivation of pecan trees began in the 1880s in the United States. Currently between 80 and 95% of the world's pecans come from the US, which has a yearly output of about 150 to 200 thousand tons. The other major producers of pecans are Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Peru and South Africa. Pecan trees are capable of living and bearing edible nuts for more than three hundred years. The pecan nut casebearer, the pecan weevil, and the hickory shuckworm are some of the insects that attack the pecan nut.
The pecan tree has an important role to play in the ecosystem. It is also among the most important horticultural crop native to the United States.