Pecan trees are native to Texas. They are hardy, drought-tolerant, and generally easy to care for in your landscape. However, Pecan trees are not immortal. Pecan trees that die from stress usually succumb to multiple factors, including poor soil depth or drainage, bearing too many nuts, drought/lack of water, freezing, disease, or other poor management. Unfortunately, pecan trees that are at most risk often don’t appear ill until it is too late.

Check your Tree(s)

To check the health of your pecan tree, examine it carefully. Pecan trees never go dormant, so freezing temperatures can freeze the sap and kill portions or all of your tree. If the limbs of the canopy don’t produce leaves, or produce a second flush of growth immediately after the first flush dies off, the tree is suffering from previous freeze damage. In this case, large parts of the tree have likely already died.

Once a pecan tree is dead, the signs are obvious.

What You’re Looking For

One. Bring a magnifying glass and a penknife out to your tree and examine the bark. Bark that is split vertically or peeling, but shows yellow and moist wood, is likely exhibiting signs of rapid growth. However, if the bark splits vertically and the wood underneath is gray, it is a sign of damage due to freezing.

Two. Search the ground around the tree. It is not a good sign if there are new pecan saplings growing around the base. These new pecan saplings are known as suckers, and are an indication that the tree is in survival mode. This is a sign that a portion of the tree is dead.

Three. If the leaves of your tree suddenly wilt in late summer, dig a hole around the roots of your pecan tree. If the roots are stained red and covered in tiny threat-like fungus, your tree has been killed by cotton root rot.

Dig a hole around the roots of your pecan tree if the leaves suddenly wilt on the tree in late summer. If the roots are stained red and covered in tiny thread-like fungus, your tree has been killed by cotton root rot.

Get Help

Most stress can be corrected if caught in time. Unless a tree is completely dead or suffers from cotton root rot, you can usually save your tree before it dies. If you suspect that your tree is under stress, consult your county extension office, a nursery, or a local pecan grower for their professional opinion. Texas’s land grant university is Texas A&M University, and it maintains extensive literature on pecan trees, diseases that affect pecan trees and how to correct problems with pecan trees.

Is my Dead Tree Dead to Me?

Not necessarily. We re-purpose your old trees to create beautiful projects. We can even work with some trees that have been infected with some types of fungus. In fact, fungus can create various forms of wood coloration and unique pattern formation, called spalting. Although primarily found in dead trees, spalting can also occur in living trees under stress. We can judge the potential strength loss in the wood and give you a solid idea what you’ve got. Consult with us to learn how we can design a project for you.