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pecan nuts hanging on a pecan tree

What Does a Pecan Tree Look Like?

When you come across a tree that seems to be forming nuts, could it mean that you have pecans on your hands, or is the tree a different kind of nut tree?

If you had one of our fifth-generation farmers with you, we could easily help you decide. But we’re probably working at our Georgia pecan orchard! Don’t worry — check out this handy guide and learn how to identify a pecan tree with ease.

Clues From Pecan Trees

Like all trees, pecan trees offer up unique characteristics for identification. You just need to know which distinctions to look for. The biggest ones are size, leaf shape and tree color and shape.

A pecan tree can grow impressively tall. While most trees hover around the 70-foot mark, some have been known to grow much taller. In fact, pecan trees have exceeded 100 feet in the wild!

The leaves of a pecan tree are long. A single leaf, which is made up of 17 smaller leaflets, can measure close to two feet. Pecan tree leaflets have a distinctive shape. Some say they look like a bird of prey’s curved beak or a “sickle” shape. However you describe them, pecan leaves are slightly bowed at the tips and darker on top. Because these trees form a wide, symmetrical canopy, the leaves and leaflets may be higher up than those on surrounding trees.

As for the tree itself, the pecan tree tends to grow alongside other pecan trees. It’s rarer to find a single pecan tree. Usually, you’ll spot at least a trio of pecans gathered together in the wild. You can expect the bark to be any shade from a light brown to a deeper red-brown hue.

pecan tree field

Identifying the Pecan Tree Nut

Not all pecan trees produce nuts year after year, depending on where the trees grow and how old the trees are. Trees that do produce nuts are ripe at the end of the calendar year, just in time for all those favorite holiday recipes like pecan pie and pecan cream cheese nut rolls!

If you have a mature pecan tree in front of you and it’s already dropped some nuts, pick one up. Pecan shells are relatively smooth and oval-shaped. While they’re difficult to open by hand, it’s not impossible. Long ago, people found ingenious ways to open pecans without using a nutcracker, including putting two pecan shells in one palm and squeezing your hand to apply pressure. You might want to try this one-handed shelling trick the next time you encounter a pecan tree with ripe nuts!

Once your pecan is cracked open, you can observe the nutmeat. You’ll see some long grooves along with the tasty, sweet meat. You can eat pecans fresh from the tree if you like.

Knowing Your Pecan Trees

Now that you know what a pecan tree and pecan tree leaf look like, you may think about growing one in your backyard. However, this tree needs lots of room. Most backyards can’t adequately support the needs of a mature pecan tree.

Of course, you don’t have to plant a pecan tree to get delicious pecans! Call Pecan Nation and order a bag or two of our savory or sweet pecans today!

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