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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Pecan


(Carya illinoensis (Wangenheim) K Koch)


Pecan, although not native to North Carolina, has been widely planted throughout the state during the past 200 years and has begun to reproduce naturally. It is the largest of all hickories and has reached 180 feet in height. Though its wood is widely used in furniture, the pecan is noted for its sweet and tasty nut.

Pecan leaves are 12 to 20 inches long, with 9 to 17 toothed leaflets that are 4 to 8 inches long, 1 to 3 inches wide and dark yellow green above and paler below. The mature fruit is a 4-ribbed, dark brown, ellipsoidal husk: the familiar smooth, reddish-brown pecan. The bark on mature trees is light brown to gray. It is composed of low, scaly ridges separated by very narrow, shallow fissures.

Water hickory or bitter pecan

(Carya aquatcia (Michxf) Nutt) is common in the Coastal Plain, where it is found on wet, poorly drained sites. It is similar to pecan, differing mainly in its nut, which usually is obovoid, flattened, smaller, and far less edible than pecan. Without the fruit, it often is difficult to distinguish water hickory from pecan.

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