Just Nutty: The Symbolism of Pecan Trees

Pecan Tree close up main

Pecan trees are native to the United States. They are prized by both humans and animals for their nutritious nuts.  Pecan trees symbolize the South (especially Texas), wealth and abundance, long life (they can live 300 years), nature’s bounty, and healthy living. 

Basic Facts 

Pecan trees are native to the United States, particularly the southern and central regions.

They are deciduous trees that regularly lose their leaves.  The bare trees that are seen during the wintertime are deciduous trees.  Evergreens keep their leaves yearlong.  

The ideal climate for pecans is warm and humid. 

Animals go nutty for pecan.  Squirrels, deer, raccoons, foxes, wild turkeys, wood ducks, crows, blue jays, and many more animals just love pecan nuts.  

Humans value pecan trees for their nutritious nuts, their fine wood, and use them as fuel for smoking meat. They debate on how to pronounce it. Some say “pea-CAN” and others, “pea-KAHN.”  I think the matter has split up more than one friendship and marriage.  

Pecan trees have a long lifespan (300 years or more) to keep on providing their gifts. 

An American Tree 

The name “pecan” comes from an Algonquian word roughly meaning “requiring a stone to crack.” 

Native Americans long before Europeans arrived used pecans as a staple to their diet during the fall and winter months.  They used them for nut milk.  Pecan nuts were popular trade items.  

Pecan trees have always been an important part of American history. The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca described pecan nuts in his diary, including their life-saving nutritional value.  

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew them.  Pecan trees are especially found in the stories of former slaves.  Southerners love using them in their recipes.  

Texas Is Nuts About Pecans 

Pecan trees are beloved by many Southerners and often are as associated with their culture as much as magnolia trees.  Texas, as it often does, takes things to the next level.  

Governor James Stephen Hogg loved pecan trees.  In 1906, he requested that a pecan tree be planted on his grave.  Hogg also promoted spreading pecan seeds to be distributed throughout the state.  Texas made pecan trees the state tree in 1919.  

Texas not only made pecans a state tree, but it was also later made the state pie and health nut. The state made it illegal for a  person to cause pecans to fall from a pecan tree by any means without permission.  Other states honor the pecan tree but not quite that far. 

Wealth and Abundance 

Pecans were not only prized for their useful qualities, including their delicious nature as anyone who tastes a pecan pie can tell you.  Their abundant and easy-to-store nuts were used as cash.

Pecan trees and nuts are symbols of wealth and abundance.  A tree can yield some 600 pounds of nuts per year.  They provide a natural richness that keeps on giving. 

But, be careful.  Pecans were sometimes overharvested. People saw a good thing and did not carefully handle things.  Things might look fine now.  But, something unexpected might happen.


Pecan trees can live for three hundred years.  A pecan tree can be older than the United States, which declared its independence less than two hundred and fifty years ago.  

They symbolize long life and survival.  Pecan trees are a reminder that we should remember the long haul.  A pecan tree will be enjoyed by a child, grandchild, and great-grandchild.  

Nature’s Bounty 

Pecans are a symbol of the bounty nature provides us.  

They are not mentioned in the Bible since they are native to North America.  But, when Jesus speaks of the “lilies in the field” growing in all their glory and how birds are nourished by nature, some just might think about pecan trees.  

It is not surprising that Texas declared them the state’s “health nut.”  Pecan meat is an excellent source of vitamins, protein, and unsaturated fats.  Butter pecan, which is a favorite ice cream flavor of my mom, is a favorite dessert.  They also are used in alcoholic drinks

Pecan trees are a symbol of nature and all it provides for us.  For those who are religious, the trees are also reminders of the gifts of God.  Their long life, much longer than the lifetime of us humans, reminds us that nature was here before us and will live on after we are gone.  

A Glance At A Pecan Tree And All Its Fruits

I took a look at an Elliot Pecan Tree website.  We are told:

Elliot Pecan Trees are in popular demand because of their reliable large harvests of large, plump pecans. Not only is this tree famous for large harvests, but it’s also famous for their sweet and savory pecan flavor that other pecan varieties can’t match.

It is not surprising that this tree impressed Americans for thousands of years.  They can grow a hundred feet tall.  Trees are impressive and an enjoyable part of city life in my area. 

But, pecan trees offer their special charms.  A close look at the budding plant shows its potential.  And, then we see the pecans, so sweet and delicious.  I should buy a little pecan pie.