In 1919, the U.S. state of Texas chose the pecan tree as a representative symbol. Pecan trees produce nuts and are found in most areas of Texas. The tree is native to the state, and the nuts were, at various points in the state's history, important economic products. Native Algonquin Americans who lived in the region once called the fruit of the pecan tree "peccan," according to the Texas State Historical Association. "Peccan" referred to a nut with a hard shell.
Modern pecan nuts may be of the traditional variety or they may be one of several new varieties that farmers cross-bred for improved features. The harvesters of both kinds of nuts shake them off trees to harvest them, though the collection methods vary in other ways. One grower may simply catch the shaken nuts with a sheet, and another may use machinery to collect them directly off the tree. The state tree of Texas may grow as tall as 70 feet (about 21 meters), which can require very tall harvesting machines.
The state tree of Texas is a slow-growing plant, and after a farmer plants a pecan orchard, he or she needs to wait at least five years before the nuts are harvested. Even after the trees mature, the nuts can be targets for pests. Animal pests that like pecans include squirrels and crows. Deer can also destroy the state tree of Texas easily when they use the young trees as rubbing posts for their antlers. As well as animals, insects like weevils, worms and aphids are also attracted to the tree and can cause significant damage to it.
Scientifically the state tree of Texas has the name Carya illinoensis, and is deciduous, which means it loses its leaves every year. The tree is actually closely related to the walnut and hickory plants. It grows across much of the state, and was always a food source for people living in the Americas. After the Europeans discovered the continent, however, they exported the nut across the ocean and into Europe.
Part of the reason Texas chose the pecan as the state tree, apart from the historical and widespread presence of the tree in the state, was that a former governor named James Hogg asked that when he died, his mourners would plant a pecan at one end of his grave, and promote the propagation of the nuts among the people of Texas. The success of the pecan in the state as a food crop adds to the symbolism of the tree to the locality.