Pecans come from a type of hickory tree, Carya illinoinensis. In the same plant family as walnuts (Juglandaceae), pecan trees are native to the southern US and northern Mexico. Pecans weren’t commercially grown until the late 1800s, but were important to Native Americans well before that.
This pecan specimen was collected by Sister Mary Joy Haywood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 14, 1965. Dr. Haywood was a biology professor at Carlow College in Pittsburgh and president of the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania for many years.
Pecan pie is an important and tasty symbol to many. The pecan tree is the state tree of Texas and the “official state nut” of Alabama, Arkansas, and California. (If you wondered, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a state nut.)
Check back for more! Botanists at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History share digital specimens from the herbarium on dates they were collected. They are in the midst of a three-year project to digitize nearly 190,000 plant specimens collected in the region, making images and other data publicly available online. This effort is part of the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis Project (mamdigitization.org), a network of thirteen herbaria spanning the densely populated urban corridor from Washington, D.C. to New York City to achieve a greater understanding of our urban areas, including the unique industrial and environmental history of the greater Pittsburgh region. This project is made possible by the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1801022.
Mason Heberling is Assistant Curator of Botany at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.