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The History of Northern James Pecan Trees in Northern Landscapes
Publication By: Patrick Malcolm

In the Northern states, the Northern James pecan tree will ripen, if this proper cultivar is selected. Native pecans occur in the wild state all along the Mississippi River as far north as Illinois. In fact the early American botanists gave it the name Carya illinoinensis - named after the state where it was first identified, Illinois. Considered by some to be a "Northern Type" pecan, the Northern James pecan trees planted at South Georgia Experiment Station sites have proven well adapted to humid southern climate conditions as well. The nuts are completely matured by September 1st. in South Georgia; the high quality nuts command a high price on the early wholesale market.

The James pecan is a northern pecan tree, however, it is prized in the south, because it produces big crops of papershell nuts in September that bring a high price for Thanksgiving nut sales. An orchard of James Pecan trees in the North offers a cooling shade to joggers during the Summer heat, and then a bountiful crop of delicious papershell pecans in September. Pecan trees were first offered for sale in the year 1737 by Prince Nursery located in Flushing, New York, and Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both enthusiastic about planting pecan trees in their personal orchards, and Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was an early pecan grower.

In the past the problem with growing pecans successfully in cold climates was finding a cultivar that matured before the first frosts in the Fall, so as to avoid putting the trees into dormancy too early for high quality kernel filling. The Northern pecan cultivar, such as the James pecan trees is extremely cold hardy.

The Truth About Cold Hardy or 'Hardy' Pecan Trees

It is a fact that President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson grew pecans from pecan trees that they purchased from the first American Commercial Nursery, "Prince Nursery" in Flushing, New York, a nursery that documented in historical publications, the Presidents' horticultural interests that led to their onsite New York visits and purchases An unfortunate and little known, or discussed fact is that these Presidential purchased pecan trees were "Seedling Pecan Trees" grown from wild seed, not the improved, grafted type trees that are grown, promoted and offered for sale today by reputable nurseries. There is an enormous difference in Seedling Pecan Trees and Grafted Pecan trees, since the Grafted trees are always (100 percent) reliable in producing the same predictable high quality and large sized nuts every year. Seedling pecan trees are also called 'wild pecan trees', because the nut characteristics are completely chaotic, random and unpredictable. The size of a wild seedling hardy pecan nut can be as tiny as an M&M peanut or as large as a normal commercial pecan, but the outcome of planting a wild seedling hardy pecan tree is absolutely unknowable until you wait an expected 15 years to test the nut size or perhaps, other nightmarish surprises that may await you. The flavor of the ungrafted seedling pecans also may be bitter as a result of natural inter-crossing with bitternuts or pignut tree hybrids in the forest wild setting. The pecan shell thickness may be thick or papershell, depending on the genetic code that was transmitted by the wild hardy seedling pecan from the two parent trees. There are many other characteristics that are not discussed in this article that could explain the undesirability of buying inexpensive "Hardy Pecan Trees". The word "Hardy" is an adjective that has been used to describe the trees cold hardiness, and the name, "Hardy" (variety) is an illegitimate (Cultivar) name that is now marketed by some mail order nurseries to sell a wild pecan tree at a cheaper price to unwary customers who normally, if properly informed, would then spend the extra money for the more expensive "Grafted" pecan trees with a predictable yield, nut quality, cold hardiness and the hoped-for satisfactory outcome.

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