View Full Version : Pecan tree diagnosis...or...revenge of the squirrels!

August 15, 2005, 21:05
We have an 8-10 year old pecan tree in our backyard that I would guess is approx 10"-11" in diameter and about 30-35 feet tall. We moved in 7 years ago and it was about a 3" diameter and 10 feet tall. It has grown quickly, doubling in size in the last 3 years. We never got any pecans off of it because the squirrels ate them all. I'm talking 6-7 squirrels in the tree all at the same time. Last year I eliminated the squirrels.

This year the pecans came in so thick the limbs were straining under the weight. Last week we lost a 6" diameter limb that just twisted itself out of the tree. No bad weather or wind was involved. It just couldn't bear the weight. Today we had a pretty heavy rain. When we got home, two-thirds of the upper limbs, most of them 4"-5" diameter limbs, had twisted themselves out of the tree and were hanging. I figure we had 15-20 mph winds involved, and with the weight of the water on the leaves, it just couldn't take it.

I had to get a pole saw and cut the broken limbs out of the tree. The tree is know a shadow of it's former self and looks terrible. What's worse, most of the remaining limbs appear in jeapordy of breaking in the same manner.

Is this tree diseased, or is this a natural occurrence? I've trimmed all the limbs I can reach with the pole saw, but some of them are out of reach and appear to be ready to break. Will it survive and "re-sprout"?

I think I hear the squirrels laughing...

August 15, 2005, 21:18
I have a couple of pecan trees. In the 2-3 years I have been in the house, never got that many pecans off of them. That's OK with me. I don't do anything with them anyway but pick them up and toss them, or leave them for the critters.

One of them is about 20 years old and I am keeping an eye on it. It may be getting to big for the yard and becoming a hazard. I have read that pecan trees are brittle and prone to breaking under weight. I think they are notorious for getting top-heavy. There is a disease that they get where they leaves turn black and the fruit drops early.

In other words, SK, I have no idea what I'm talking about. I am going to call a professional tree person out and see what they think sooner or later. If you are on a big property where that tree isn't a danger to anyone else or your house, you could just watch it and see what happens.

August 15, 2005, 21:58
It WAS beginning to get too big for the yard. Not anymore. It had probably grown 8' in height this past year. I think it got too big, too fast. That, and the weight of the pecans with no "critters" to munch on them may have been the downfall (no pun intended).

August 15, 2005, 22:19
Hmmm... I donít know much about trees but this is a little out there. Your story plays in perfectly with a conversation I was having a week ago about hunting. The question was asked "why do you hunt those poor animals?" Initial reply was "why not?" Then I could tell that they were wondering why people in general hunted deer/rabbits in particular because they were so cute. I then educated them that humans eliminated 99% of the natural predators, populations grow too quickly, the environment canít support the rapid growth, then the animals die from starvation and disease. Even my vegetarian animal loving sister gets that and realizes that nature is out of balance. I got glazed over stares from them for the longest time.

Now I have another good example thanks to you tree story. Kill all the squirrels, tree grows and runs into hard times because the extra weight from the pecans. Tree losses, squirrels definitely lose, and you did too in a way. Nature is out of balance!

Sorry, this has nothing really worthy to add but it highlights a point I guess. Iíll shut up and go away now.


August 15, 2005, 22:30
Save the wood it's great for smoking meats in the BBQ. Mix Pecan, Apple and some hickory or Oak. mmmmm Ribs :biggrin: :beer:

August 15, 2005, 22:32
Crows and Blue Jays will also like to eat pecans. I think it is still too early for all the critters to go gathering pecans. I cut some of mine open last week and they were green inside. The astonishing rate of growth and all the pecans SK describes leads me to believe the tree got a shot of steroids from somewhere. I wonder if it got down into the sewer and was tapping into that.

762 shooter
August 15, 2005, 22:42
Pecans are fast growing trees with long slim branches. Their wood is on the brittle side. They will be more prone to breakage as they get older. If you prune properly now it shouldn't be an issue. Proper pruning on the other hand can be difficult to come by, try and find an experienced arborist. For the right price I will fly out once every winter and prune it for you.:rofl: Keep in mind that if left to its own devices the tree will have splitting branches regardless of fruit. The best thing to do is to stub off the branches so that each branch can support its weight. It is alot easier to show than descibe over the internet. For what it's worth, I'm a landscape contractor that does dormant pruning in the winter. I have been pruning trees for 17ish years and was trained by people that knew/know what they were/are doing. (Some are dead now) If you have more questions let me know.

August 16, 2005, 07:14
What you have happening is normal. Pecan trees are "self pruning" meaning that they naturally shed limbs or portions of limbs that are either too long for their diameter (which is what happens when, as you guessed, they DO grow too fast) or that are "old", diseased, or whatever. You dont actually NEED to prune it, however once they do get really big (I have two that are approximately 30-40' tall and 4-5' diameter at the main trunk) it is both scary and dangerous when a limb from WAY up at the top sheds and comes rocketing down from the heavens, usually when you are walking by. I keep an eye out and try to knock back anything that looks questionable. WHen you get a really rainy winter/spring combo they do tend to grow too fast and then the "branch hail" happens the next summer. I had two monsters fall a couple of weeks ago.

Also, for the record, I killed 28 squirrels in one weekend alone last year and STILL didnt manage to keep the fuzzy tailed rats from steaing half my pecans...


August 16, 2005, 07:22
I have half a dozen pecan trees in my yard. Some are brittle and some are not. I have no clue why the differences.

I do use fox urine soaked cotton balls in plastic containers screwed to the tree to run the squirrels off. Works great. Got it at the seed store.

August 16, 2005, 13:26
I have 5 acres of Pecan trees. It is an old Homeplace that has 50yr old trees. They drop limbs every year. It is normal. Although I think the Woodpeckers cause alot of it. Once they put a ring around a limb it damages the water supply to the limb and it can die.

Crows eat the peacans just as much as the squirrels around here.

August 16, 2005, 21:34
Wow. Thanks for all the informative posts. We do have a red-headed woodpecker (no, his name isn't Woody) that visits the tree often. He is a rather rare breed, though I don't know the exact species, and we have left him alone. I wonder if he might have been part of the problem...

August 17, 2005, 06:59
Nah, its all the rain we got this winter and spring. I'm down the street from you on I-10 and everyone here has the same problem.