Growing Pecan Trees in the North

Growing pecan trees in Minnesota or Canada? Yes you can, with a far-north, native species.

| March/April 1979

Does the thought of roasted pecans and pecan pies make your mouth water? Well, here's some good news for residents of the northern United States and southern Canada: growing pecan trees may soon be possible right in your own back yard!

Although the pecan is usually thought of as a resident of the Deep South, a few native stands of these noteworthy nut producers are known to exist along the Missouri River in north central Missouri and the Mississippi River near Dubuque, Iowa. Early settlers even reported finding pecans on the Ohio River as far north as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But, unfortunately, most of these northern strains have long since fallen to "civilization." You can imagine the excitement, then, when naturalists discovered a few scattered native trees as far north as southern Wisconsin!

Indian Orchards

Pecan trees (which can live for 500 years) originated in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma, and were spread along the canoe-trails of the American Indians. (The word "pecan" comes from the Indian word paccan : "food which has to be cracked out of a hard shell".) These nuts—once a staple of the Indian diet—were easy to collect and highly nutritious, stored well, and were good for barter.

It's believed that the native Americans planted pecans in the vicinity of regularly used campsites to provide "grubstakes" for their descendants. And—since the Indians preferred to plant the biggest and thinnest-shelled species—this "cultivation" not only increased the growing range of the beautiful shade tree but greatly improved the quality of its nuts as well!

But no one realized just how widely the tree had actually been spread until recently, when some fine examples of the "northern" pecan were found hidden away in the rugged forests of southern Wisconsin and in the northernmost regions of Iowa and Illinois. These old trees, which grow as far as 300 miles north of the currently available northern pecans, make it feasible to adapt the nut tree to much colder climates than modem growers had previously thought possible!

A Rare Seed Offer

Members of the Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA)—a non-profit group dedicated to the promotion of nut growing in the north—have already made exploratory expeditions into this extreme northern range of the pecan. And, as a result of their efforts, a "distribution program" of this rare species is being sponsored as a public service by the NNGA.

2/10/2018 9:48:17 AM

It's disappointing that this article hasn't been updated. I'd love to know how the efforts to maintain and increase this strain have come out.

2/10/2018 9:48:15 AM

It's disappointing that this article hasn't been updated. I'd love to know how the efforts to maintain and increase this northern strain has come out.

Michael Boucher_2
8/6/2010 8:12:56 PM

RE-Grow Pecan Trees in the North-March/April 1979. Just read this article online today (August 2010) and was wondering if there is any new updates to this article or if there is any way to obtain nuts from this source. Michael Boucher Richards Landing Ontario, Canada

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