Orchard Update - April/May
The orchard has been in the "Budbreak" phase since about mid-March. During this time, the buds swell and break out of their protective covering, and a short time after tiny leaves begin to unfurl. If you've been following us on Instagram, you've seen the bright green leaves begin to dot the trees and our orchard team spraying nutrients onto the new leaves.
Between budbreak and pollination, catkins (pollen-producing flowers growing on stalks) begin to appear, harbingers of a bountiful crop. If no catkins are seen it is very likely the nut crop will be light. You can see many of our trees are loaded with catkins. Any day now, the catkins will burst open and release pollen into the orchard.
Right now, the orchard floor is thick with ryegrass and wild flowers, and the trees have burst out with new pale green leaves and lots of FLOWERS.
“Flowers?” You may ask. “On a PECAN tree?”
Many people don’t realize that pecan trees flower, but they do. In fact, pecan trees produce two types of flowers. The pollen-producing male flowers that grow in long tight clusters called catkins develop first. The female flowers, or nut-producing flowers, emerge a few days later.
In pecans, both types of flowers are found on the same tree, unlike cottonwood and mulberry which have separate male and female trees. (When you buy a fruitless mulberry or a cottonless cottonwood at the garden center, you are actually buying a male tree.)
But even though both types of flowers are found on the same pecan tree, most varieties are not very efficient at self-pollination. Every variety is classified into one of two categories. Protandrous varieties are those which shed their pollen before the nut-producing flower on the same tree is receptive. Protogynous varieties are just the opposite. The nut-producing flowers are receptive before the pollen on that same tree is shed.
As a result, we at Royalty Pecan Farm have planted both types of varieties in close proximity to each other to ensure adequate pollination. We'll have more orchard updates, including how pecan trees are pollinated over the next week or so as things progress in the orchard. Spoiler: pecan trees are not pollinated by bees.
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