The pecan nut (Carya illinoensis), like the walnut, belongs to the family Juglandaceae. Names formerly used for the nut are Hicoria pecan and C. illinoenensis. The tree is indigenous to North America where it grows wild in the states along the Gulf of Mexico and around the Great Lakes. Some 400-year-old trees still bear nuts.

Pecan-nut trees grow very fast and become very tall unless growth is controlled. It is regarded as one of the biggest fruit/nut crops. The nut has a very high protein content and its nutritional value is one of the highest of all fruit grown in South Africa. The nuts are rich in vitamins, carbohydrates and nut oil.

Pecan nuts in South Africa

The first pecan-nut trees were imported into South Africa by one Wilkinson, a Natal nurseryman, towards the end of the last century. F.S. Staniland of Willowfontein, Pietermaritzburg, probably imported the first grafted trees in 1912. From here trees spread mainly to the subtropical parts of the country and one of the first commercial plantings was made by H.L. Hall and Sons near Nelspruit.

Pecan nuts are now produced in many parts of South Africa on a bigger or smaller scale. Initial problems included poor production of seedling trees, unsuitable climatic and soil conditions and trees that took a long time to come into bearing.

Production areas

The southern Lowveld is currently the biggest production area in South Africa, with the biggest commercial planting on the private property of H.L. Hall and Sons at Nelspruit.  Other important production areas are White River, Tzaneen, Louis Trichardt/Levubu, KwaZulu-Natal, the Vaalharts irrigation scheme, the Middleveld around Pretoria and some parts along the Orange River.

Although pecan nuts were originally planted in the subtropical areas and the biggest plantings are still found in these areas, it is not a true subtropical crop. Since a high rainfall and humidity are synonymous with a subtropical area, diseases are a major problem and only tolerant cultivars should be planted.

In South Africa the crop is well adapted to virtually any area with short, cold winters and long, very hot summers with a relatively low rainfall and humidity. The three most important factors to be considered by any prospective producer, are climate soil, and additional irrigation water.


PecanProduction.jpg Editors: A.D. Sippel and H. du Toit