Just out of curiosity, Dax (@Barkslip), what two pecans would you recommend for the 5a/5b line up my way? Would it change any going from down your way to the Cedar Rapids area?

I don’t have the space for them on our current lot, but my wife is dreaming about a new house, and I a bigger lot.

Also, can pecans be top-worked at any age, or do you have to do it when they are young? My uncle planted a dozen or so seedlings 20 years ago and they just started producing, but the nuts are tiny.


Pecans can be topworked any age, but the effort involved becomes too high unless you have access to things like a bucket truck and are skilled at taking tree limbs down. Grafts work best on stems under 8 inches diameter. Different graft methods can be used depending on the type graft, healing conditions, and stem size. I would use a bark graft on anything from about 1 inches to about 3 inches diameter. Inlay bud grafts work well on stems from 2 inches to 8 inches diameter. Very large trees can be topworked by going up high enough in the tree to get to stems under 8 inches diameter. It is preferable to graft on stems under 4 inches if possible. The reason is that an 8 inch stem will take 5 or more years to fully heal over. This is long enough for decay to set in and eventually destroy the graft union. If grafting stems over 4 inches diameter, it is best to treat the cut with a wood protectant to prevent decay.


@wildernesssoul I can send your plants Monday. There in pots so “anytime.” Let me know if Monday works and I’ll package them up tonite and weight them and get a shipping price to you along with the price of the grafts that we discussed.

@Levers101 There’s a big difference between everything north of Hwy 34 and south of. It’s literally night and day. I have a friend in Farley, IA and his temperatures average 8-degrees colder than here on almost every given day during winter. Farley is directly across from Dubuque heading west.
I think you should grow ultra-northern pecans. But run the data from post 92 and let me know what you come up with, please.

We’ll talk further from there.



Here are the numbers:

Iowa City - Cooling Degree days average 1001. Length of season (26F) average since 1990 = 217 days. (All recorded data = 208 days)

For Cedar Rapids I get the average of 940ish CDD’s, and 208 days between 26F in spring and fall.

For fun, here are some of the northern pecan (seedlings, I presume) that my uncle planted.

The trees in front are pecans.

Some nuts, post squirrel. 15 cents for comparison. This is the thinnest shelled and biggest of the ones that I could find squirrel-eaten nuts from. The nuts from the rest of the trees are smaller.


Sweet! I’d like to crack some of those if you can beat the squirrels to a few next year. You need to put flashing around the trunks about 5’ off of the ground and a 3’ tall wrap of flashing.

I’d say go for Mullahy and Hark, Drew.

Have a great day everyone. I’m off to Missouri where my friend is picking up 100 pounds of Mullahy to float and sell as seed.



I didn’t realize that pecan were a bottomland tree… It appears that Mullahy was from the Mississippi River bottoms. The tree with the bigger nuts is doing fine 10 yards from the creek.

When do pecan split shuck where you are?

One more question: How far does pecan pollen travel? This tree is probably 250 yards from the stand of a half dozen other pecan. Though there might be mockernut (or is it pignut?) hickory closer than that. There are lots of mockernut hickory in that Iowa River bottom.


Pecan pollen will drift for a mile or more but is much more effective at distances less than 300 feet. More trees in an area means more pollen to be shared. Many pecans will self pollinate to some extent. This usually results in reduced crops and poorly filled nuts. Mockernut will occasionally cross with pecan but don’t count on it to set a crop. The rule of thumb is to have at least 3 trees with compatible pollen shed within 100 feet of each other.

Shuck split varies from tree to tree. It is an inherited trait with strong selection for later shuck split because of animal predation. Early maturing pecans are hit much harder by squirrels, jays, and crows than later maturing trees. I recorded Adams #5 with shuck split on September 28th and lasting through October 11th. This would be considered early for the area. A rule of thumb is that first shuck split for a well adapted variety should occur at least two weeks prior to killing frost. There are plenty of varieties that shuck split up to 2 weeks after average killing frost. Stuart for example starts about the 2nd week of November here which is about 3 weeks after our average killing frost date.

While pecan is adapted to bottomland, it is adaptable enough to grow on upland sites so long as it is not excessively dry. Pecan is not adapted to wet or soggy soils. Water hickory can grow on very wet sites. Hybrids between pecan and water hickory have been used as root stocks in a few cases where drainage could not be improved.


Great info. Darrel.

Shuck split varies year to year. We still have a lot of nuts hanging in pecans this year. It would require we shake the branches to get them down. I don’t know enough about this phenomenon to comment further. What I can tell you is the earliest to shuck split probably begin late Oct. while Hark is middle of Nov. Hark flowers mid-April and then we wait for rain and windstorms the second week of anytime 1st or 2nd week of Nov. Hark periodically is dropping one at a time for weeks prior or from me standing underneath it tossing a 2x4 up into the canopy.

This year was different in that everything came down at the same time. The earliest and latest all dropped at once.

You just need to choose ones that will mature in a given area and be ready!



This is just a curiosity for me, but is pecan not graft compatible with pure water hickory? I thought graft compatibility was much broader than pollen compatibility and I figured that anything that could hybridize would also be graft compatible.


All species of the Genus Carya are graft-compatible.

I had not heard of the hybrid-rootstock until now.



My pecans got crushed by insect pests this yr. I’ve had losses before but not like this. The culprits are pecan weevil, a shuck worm, and casebearer. I’d say the losses were 90% or more. I guess I’ll need to spray next yr.


From L. Grauke’s page on pecan: Pecan hybridizes with water hickory (C. aquatica) to form C. X lecontei. Hybrids of that cross may have advantages as rootstocks on some poorly drained sites. Pecan hybridizes with bitternut hickory (C. cordiformis) to form C. X brownii, and with C. laciniosa to form C. X nussbaumeri. Pecan hybridizes with C. ovata to form an unnamed hybrid.

Also read:


I wonder where one could get the C.X brownii Bitternut cracks out halves easily and has pecan like husk . Might make a hardy easy to crack nut . Wonder if it is bitter .


Hi Dax, just picked up your message. How about next Monday? Thank you.


Do a search for “Pleas” pecan or hican. It is reported to be a bitternut/pecan cross. Lucky can tell you quite a bit about it.


Is there a nursery that sells Mullahy? I see Nolin River Nut Nursery sells Hark but I did not see Mullahy in their inventory and my 2 minute Google Foo did not turn up any others.


@wildernesssoul, I’ll message you now. Monday is A-ok.

@Levers101 I can get Mullahy for you this coming summer 2018 as a fresh graft or you could wait for this years coming grafts to be planted 2019 spring. You might also contact Nolin River on the phone and ask if he has any Mullahy grafts. He doesn’t list a lot of what he actually has.



Shepherd Farms visit 2017. Dan Shepherd and his wife run the business started by his father. My friend Gary you’ll see in a few photos below knew Dan’s father when there weren’t many cultivars known some 30+ years ago. Along with Gary’s footwork of searching for pecans from our area (Burlington/Muscatine, Iowa) and south into Missouri, Gary spent 30-years searching for nuts with traits that both homeowners and commercial growers would be looking for in a pecan: most importantly crackability; then size along with resistance to pests. Gary has been attributed along with a few other fellas to name only a few: Bill Totten & John Gordon… as the guys who began it all.

In the beginning of Shepherd Farm, Dan’s father whom was good friends with Gary (Fernald) grafted the best of what Gary and friends were finding.

Gary’s best find is ‘Mullahy’ which has been decided upon most people as having hickory traits in it’s nut.

Here are photos from yesterdays visit to an enormous pecan orchard.


The first thing Dan Shepherd showed is hail damage that occurred this summer to his trees that not only did major damage to (all) his trees but the hail came thru when the nuts were of size enough to be ripped off the trees. Of course not all nuts were removed but a lot of this years crop ended up on the ground… probably midway thru maturation I’m thinking.

This is a newly grafted planting of Kanza and another cultivar that is right near Dan’s house. If Dan wants to know what pests are about in the others areas of his orchard he simply walks a minute from his home over to this planting to see what’s going on. Plus, it’s Kanza pecans that are in highest demand all over the country and abroad as-well.

Dan removed a few rows and I said I gotta have a picture of myself with some of his trees.

This is my friend Gary alongside a grafted ‘Mullahy’ - his selection.

Where any graft is on every tree Dan Shepherd paints that area.

Looking at a row of ‘Mullahy’ up the middle.

And the first Mullahy in that same row:

It was amazing to see the size of Mullahy in these large bins after we looked at the orchard. I screwed up and didn’t get a single picture of any of the bins filled to the top with nuts. What I am able to tell you is that each bin holds 500 pounds.

This is a ‘Burlington’ hican Dan’s father grafted. As a quick note, Dan said there’s just no money in growing hicans. This is a marker tree within the orchard that Dan kept but Dan did remove many-many hicans his father had grafted.

Me and my buddy along with the ‘Burlington’ hican (grafted on pecan)

The original spacing of The Shepherd orchard was 40 foot between trees and 40 foot between rows. I learned that decades ago the spray equipment was designed for this spacing. Dan said now the spray equipment is all designed row spacing of 50’. I asked him if he were to begin a new orchard what spacing would he do and his reply was 60’ x 60’ (trees and rows.) He continued to further explain that when a pecan orchard is spaced at 30-40’ between trees that when he removes a tree in a matter of about three years he doubles his crop because of removing that (1) tree. He said it’s difficult to tell another orchardist in their beginnings when they all of a sudden have 25’ tall trees that they need to remove every other one and if they do they will double their production. But truth be told, if a pecan orchardist has their trees on say 30’ centers and their trees have reached 25’ or more, it’s time to remove every other tree.

So this photo (I can’t say for sure) is still the original spacing of 40’ x 40’ (staggered rows of course).

A much confused pecan in the trade. It seems that ‘Witte’ varies very much so the scionwood is all messed up. This as I will show you appears to be the true ‘Witte’ Carya Illinoinensis:

Wes Rice’s book has pecans grown in Oklahoma true to size. Here is Dan Shepherd’s ‘Witte’ for reference:

And the kernel matches too. I’ve concluded Dan Shepherd has the correct Witte pecan:

The silhouette of a true ‘Witte’ Carya illinoinesns (pecan) tree. Very upright:

Lastly a half dozen or so photos of his cleansing machines and these machines automatically discard pecans that aren’t filled. This is just the machinery that gets them ready for cracking, later. In another entire building he has cracking machines that are able to crack 5000 pecans per hour “each.” It’s utterly amazing what I saw.

Behind this photo is a drying drum where it all starts to get the pecans to the correct moisture content and then what follows is what you see in this photograph.

Here’s his cooler. Of the 100,000 pounds appx. Dan harvested this year he’s sold all but that tiny crate to the right. It’s ridiculous. There are more bins for him to cleanse/crack but he’s sold so many already that standing inside this cooler was really a joke.

One last thing I wanted to show you is this “wax pen.” Dan said he uses it on galvanized tags and it doesn’t fade for 40-years. He said the only drawback is that it doesn’t write very well at freezing temperature and below. I had never seen/heard of this wax pencil. Notice the sting. That string is there to replace sharpening it. You unwind the string to get a fresh and ready to write pencil.

Best regards,



Very nice open orchard.



Thanks for sharing your journey down to Shepherd Farm. Amazing operation for so far north, with good cultivar selection.