Plant sex is weird


This may be the ENTIRE pecan harvest of 2015. Right there. One nut. From two full grown pecan trees. Does that seem right? How can we invite people over for pie when we have no pecans to make pie? The fool things look healthy. Lotsa leaves. Lotsa flowers too. Just no nuts. Other than this single unripe one.

So, after talking to some smart people and doing some reading, the solution seems to be  more trees.

Background first. Carya illinoinensis is a large and long lived (up to 300 years) Southern native, closely related to hickory. This particular pair is somewhere around 50. The leaves are very hickory like, although its nut is not as evil as a proper hickory nut, allowing you to open it without a chisel. And here’s the problem. Pecans are dichogamous, meaning (botany wise) that despite both the male and female parts being on the same plant, they aren’t “active” at the same time. And thus these poor pecans are unable to fertilize themselves. Got it? First it’s male (or female) and then it’s female (or male), the order of which is dependent upon the individual tree. And since the two planted are most likely the same cultivar with the same order of reproductive expression, they are unable to fertilize each other. Despite everybody having all the important bits. Just got the wrong timing.

Theoretically, if a different cultivar is planted, everybody will be able to properly pollinate everybody else, resulting in all the trees producing nuts. After a full year of observation, it will be determined WHEN the various reproductive activities are occurring on this pair so that a suitable mate can be found. So we’re talking 2017.

So here’s the take away: if you want to grow pecans, plant a buncha different pecans. Otherwise your pies will suffer.


“Pecan.” Wikipedia, available from Accessed August 5, 2015.

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