Pollination Overlap of Far-Northern Pecan: 'Hark' 'Kanza' 'Shepherd' 'Mullahy'

These are notes from this years carefully watched flowering of pistillates and staminites of these four Far-Northern pecans with the Exception of ‘Kanza’, a northern pecan. While Kanza is perfectly hardy in my IL zone 5b climate, it needs an Indian summer to fill the nuts. And, the nut is smaller than when grown for instance in Kansas or Oklahoma.

I touch a bit regarding hickory and hican pollination, as-well.


Hark and Kanza are perfect.

Hark will pollinate Shepherd from late pollen still remaining.

Shepherd is a good pollinator for Hark. Hark can pollinate some of the later pistillates on Shepherd. About 1/3 of the pollen cycle is left on Shepherd when the flowers come out. So there’s a large overlap where it could be self pollinated.
Shepherd will pollinate Mullahy but Mullahy is unlikely to pollinate Shepherd.

Mullahy is a very good pollinator for Hark. When Hark begins female pistillates, Mullahy has it’s staminite catkins nearly ready to shed pollen. Mullahy’s stamintie catkins are green and soon will shed. The following overlap of Hark staminite flowers that follow with Mullahy’s pistillate flowers becoming receptive is a strong, good window of pollination overlap.

(‘String’ is something my friends and I are watching. Not a single nut has been cracked but it is large for a far-northern pecan…)
String and Hark a good match. String just starting to shed and Hark is receptive in its state.
Shepherd is an early vegetating and early pollen shed cultivar. Shepherd will have pistillate and staminite flowers occurring simultaneously. Shepherd may be (unlikely however) early enough to pollinate hicans however, even the earlier blooming hickories (earlier than pecans or hicans) are unlikely according to Bill Totten to pollinate hicans. The best pollination for hicans is hican to hican. Multiple hicans should be present.

Trait of a grafted Mullahy is less caliper at the graft union than the seedling pecan it is on (trait of having hickory in its bloodline…) early to get started (another trait of hickory…)

This is why most hicans are less productive. They don’t get pollinated because they’re early to get going and need to be pollinated by hickory if no other hicans are in the vicinity. Pecans won’t pollinate hicans typically because too late for pollen.

Nutlets on Mullahy will be pollinated from either Hark or Shepherd. (evidenced by pollinated staminates on May 27th in this area.)

Hark is an early pollinator but it’s late vegetating.

An example of a pollinated pecan. What you’re looking for are the closed petals.

Here you see the beginning of the petals that have opened and the black color is a sign of pollinated nutlets that will continue on until a pecan drops from the tree.

Directly above the nutlets in a group of four are the staminite flowers that have not opened to shed pollen. Brown discoloration is from the wind.

Some of you are aware how pecans shed pollen and when they are receptive. This is called protogynous and protandrous. One tree may shed its pollen first (protogynous) while it’s neighbor tree may shed it’s pollen second (protandrous) being receptive first to pollen prior to the development of male pollen shedding catkins…

Pecans are in a whole another category of flowering plants because of these traits. The same applies to Hickory and Hican. One may be receptive first (protandrous) while another may be a pollen shedder, first (protogynous.)

I put this together kind of quickly so please forgive the miss-spellings and/or any reversal of the terms: staminte/pistillate.



Very informative Dax. Thank you!! :slight_smile:


The late Henry Converse (Dean of KY Nutgrowers) suggested that ‘Flack’ pecan might be early enough in producing pollen to improve crops on hicans such as McAllister.


Sort of on a tangent,

I’m reading your description of how pecans pollinate, and the importance of selecting complementary varieties, and it makes me wonder about growing seedlings of varieties.

If I want to grow seedlings of a variety, such as Kanza, and lets say I collect 100 pecans from a grove of strictly Kanza trees, when the seedlings grow up, will they pollinate each other?

I realize that maybe the answer to this may not be known, but if you, Dax, or someone else does know, it would be useful.


Kanza is a protogynous (Type II), cultivar and must be pollenized by a protandrous (Type I) variety. So… that theoretical orchard of just Kanza trees must have some Type I pollenizers somewhere in the mix.

With 100 random open-pollenized seedlings of Kanza - or almost any other cultivar, for that matter -chances are good that there would be enough enough variation and overlap of bloom times, across that population to adequately pollenize all.

No guarantees, though…for instance, ‘Mahan’ is homozygous for the protogynous trait, which is dominant, so ALL of its offspring will be Type II.


I read and tell folks that (7) is probably okay. (5) is maybe. And (3) is iffy, probably real iffy. You’re hoping that your worst and best (7) become pollinated.

I may have read that on Bill Reid’s blog. I don’t know.

Good answers, but not quite right. Pecan dichogamy is a rare trait that is NOT straight Mendelian inheritance. Think about this for a few minutes and it will make sense.

Protandrous pecans produce pollen first, then the female flowers become receptive typically a week to 10 days later. Protogynous pecans have receptive flowers then typically 10 to 15 days later produce pollen. In a typical wild grove of pecans, protandrous flowers are almost always pollinated by protogynous pollen and protogynous flowers are almost always pollinated by protandrous pollen. Now, consider that protogynous is dominant. In a typical protogynous pecan, it is almost always genotype Pp meaning one gene for protogynous and one gene for protandrous. When it produces pollen, the ratio of protandrous to protogynous is 1:1. When the pollen lands on protandrous flowers, the result is half of the seed produced will be protandrous and half of the seed will be protogynous. What about the other way around when the protogynous flowers are pollinated by protandrous pollen? The same math applies, pp (protandrous) pollen lands on female flowers that carry the Pp genes in a 1:1 ratio. The end result is that 50% of the seedlings are protandrous and 50% are protogynous. In all natural stands of pecans, half tend to be protandrous and half protogynous.

What does this mean for the case of planting 100 Kanza seedlings? Half the pecans will be protandrous and half protogynous. Dax is still correct that small numbers of seedlings will give odd results. You could for example plant 3 seed and wind up with all protandrous or all 3 could be protogynous.

But that is not the problem. The problem is that Kanza tends to produce a LOT of slow growing seedlings. If you want to set out 100 Kanza seedlings, grow 200 seedlings and cull the slowest growing 100 keeping only the best 100. Also, Kanza is highly tolerant to scab, but the seedlings on average are not. I have exactly 1 really good scab tolerant seedling from about 50 trees set out 3 years ago.

Lucky is correct re Mahan which has genotype PP. It is also thought to be a self seedling of Schley. I’m waiting on DNA tests to prove or disprove.

Some protandrous pecans overlap their own female flowers and can self-pollinate. While rare, it is also possible for a protogynous variety to self-pollinate. Also, dormancy genes tell a pecan when to wake up in the spring. Some wake up very early (Elliott) and some wake up very late (Adams #5). This affects when pollen is shed along with the protandrous/protogynous genes.


How can you tell this after just 3 years? Doesn’t it take at least 5 years before pecans start producing?

I rated each tree this past summer based on incidence of scab and zonate leaf spot. Some trees had little or no scab but were riddled with zonate. Some trees had no zonate but were eat up with powdery mildew and some scab. One tree had very little scab, no powdery mildew, and very little zonate. The leaves are the first indicator of scab susceptibility, so much so that breeding programs for scab resistance typically cull all seedlings that show any sign of scab after 2 seasons.

I planted these trees for rootstocks but along the way wanted to see if any of them are resistant to scab. I will start grafting them next spring. A few of the trees are already 8 feet tall and over an inch diameter.

Thanks everyone. Wasn’t what I wanted to hear but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Maybe I’ll plant out 100 seedlings and then graft over most, if not all of them, depending on their health and quality of nut. And maybe I’d be better off with nuts from an assortment of varieties/ crosses. Is it too late to graft a pecan that’s reached nut bearing age?

And, as is evident from pollenation charts @Fusion_power has posted in the past, there’s a wide range of ‘bloom times’ within Type I and Type II groups.

‘Major’ (parent of Kanza, Lakota, Osage, and other regional selections) came out of a 400-acre native pecan forest, where it was noted for its production… but when folks started grafting it… production was nothing like that from the ortet. It needs a really late pollen source to fully pollenize all of its nutlet flowers, and there were few in circulation in the nursery trade at that time which filled the niche that some in that 400 acre pecan forest were accomplishing.
I initially grafted ‘Chetopa’ pecan here to provide that ‘very late’ pollen source to help ensure full crops on ‘Major’. ‘Chetopa’ is not a great pecan in its own right, and is more susceptible to scab than I like - but I’m keeping my two ‘Chetopa’ trees around just as a late pollen source; ‘Kanza’ probably also fills that niche, and has better nut quality, but for now the ‘Chetopa’ trees are staying.

If I were going to plant 100 seedlings and allow them to grow out to fruiting age, here… I’d start with seedlings of ‘Major’… its seedlings tend to have good vigor(not all will), and it seems to pass scab resistance and excellent kernel quality to a significant percentage of its offspring.
My kids and I planted about 500 2-yr old northern pecan seedlings in a riparian bufferstrip project back in 2000, grown from seednuts I collected from a grove of grafted northern pecans (Major, Posey, GreenRiver, Peruque, and others). I didn’t know enough, in 1998, to concentrate on ‘Major’ as my principal seed choice, so there is a mix of seedlings grown primarily from nuts of ‘Major’, ‘GreenRiver’, ‘Posey’, and what I think might have been ‘Hodge’. 22 years out from planting, the vast majority of these seedlings have yet to produce a nut, but the only care they have received is twice-yearly bush-hogging. I’ve not paid attention to severity of pecan scab infection on any of them.

I’d grow Major too. Dax

This is the key, “here” when it means a variety selected for local conditions. I agree that Major is a good choice for many midwest locations. I probably would not start with Major in southern Tennessee or North Alabama. Why? Because one other trait is very strongly conveyed by Major, nut size as in not very big.

What would be a really good choice to plant seed for the region from Southern KY through the middle of Alabama? I would probably plant Lakota seed on the premise that it is cold tolerant enough, scab tolerant enough, way too productive, but most of all very fast growing. I would go overboard if it was Lakota pollinated by Amling. Why? Because Amling is highly scab tolerant but has one weakness, it is not very productive. But cross Lakota with Amling and some of the best of each should come through. Both are highly scab resistant, both make acceptably large nuts, and Amling’s low production is countered by Lakota’s high production.

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LakotaXAmling looks like it has the potential to be a great cross, I would think. Heck… I’d like to have that one here!
Agree, in spades, on the nut-size issue with Major. While it’s still a major player here over 100 years since it was first propagated, it would be relegated to small, niche applications, like ‘Candy’, if it were even worth growing in a zone7/8 setting.

You plant vigor.

I can attest too that Kanza is worthless for vigor.

Hark has enormous vigor. It’s a seedling of Major. Fred Blankenship (a nut grower) has and proves that Major F1 seedlings bring about wonderful pecans. (Zone 6 type).


‘Kanza’ is a seedling of ‘Major’… just like ‘Hark’ (or, at least, we think it probably is), Lakota, Yates 68 & 127, and many local selections like Pounds, Guston, Fred’s Major, etc.
IDK if ‘Kanza’ itself was a vigorous seedling or not… whaddya reckon became of its sibling seedlings of that cross between Major X Shoshoni?
Has anyone grown out seedlings of Hark to see if those seedlings have good vigor?

Kanza, you ask same reply as Darrel. Horrible vigor.

Hark. MASSIVE, Lucky.

I don’t know what I said or was mis-intrepreted. Anyways, there’s no reason that Major + Hark + Guston or some other “F1 Major Seedling” shouldn’t be combined to grow out a tree-orchard.

I guess I don’t know what you’re sayin’.


I’m not disputing that seedlings of Kanza have a reputation for low vigor… and as I’ve not grafted Kanza and Hark onto comparably vigorous seedlings, I don’t have a direct comparison between the individual ‘vigor’ of Kanza vs Hark.

Also, I just don’t know if seedlings of other Major offspring, like Hark, Guston, etc., have, in general, greater vigor than seedlings of Kanza.

Ooh, Oooh! (Hand in air, waving, but impatient to be called upon)… What if those Kanza seednuts were the result of pollenation by Major (as could well be the case here at my house)… and what if those Major seednuts have Kanza as the pollen parent? (Also a possibility.)

I got a bunch of Kanza nuts from the Auburn orchard 4 years ago and grew out a few hundred seedlings. The number of possible pollinators in that orchard is off the charts high and very few related to Kanza. The results were as stated above, only 50% of the seedlings were vigorous and very few were scab resistant plus zonate leaf spot resistant plus powdery mildew resistant.

I’m still stuck here too. (His) Kanza pollinated with Mullahy. A-very-vigorous seedling. I believe Hark is the other pollinator when the grafted branch of Mullahy up in the Kanza tree is Hark. There’s Hark everywhere, most upcoming w/o pollen.

Yep, I know, I know, I know… Hands flying around here too… same as thoughts…

P,s, chainsaw came to mind very-quickly after first post about vigor here w/USDA evaluations of that Major x Shoshoni cross. Oh well. Lots of information always with pecans.