Of the native species of the hickory found in the United States, the pecan (Hicoria pecan) stands first at present in commercial value; the little shellbark (H. ovata) stands second; and the big shellbark (H. laciniosa) stands third in order of value. The two last named are Northern and will be first considered. The H. ovata has a broad distribution from Quebec to Iowa and south to the Southern States. The nut is white, often oblong but varied in shape, and it is always four-angled, with a sweet and pleasant kernel. In size it is variable and also in thickness of shell. The selected varieties are thin-shelled, with a large kernel easily separated from the shell divisions. The trees of this species are quite ornamental and grow on relatively high land and on rather dry bottom lands. The big shellbark species grows best on rich bottom land and under cultivation succeeds best on rich, rather moist soil. A large part of the varieties propagated and named by propagators belong to the little shellbark or shagbark species.
The pecan seems to be confined to the bottom lands of the Western States in the valley of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Although generally found on bottom lands subject to overflow of streams, yet it often is found in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and other Southwestern States, on upland where moistened by springs or percolation from higher levels. Under cultivation it is found to do as well on upland as the big shellbark of the South. As gathered from the stream-bottoms and from planted orchards, the annual output is very large. The large thin-shelled varieties have retailed at the North at higher prices than has been obtained for other nuts home-grown or imported. The smaller sizes with thicker shells have been mainly used in candy-making. A single firm, we are told by Mr. William A. Taylor, in New York "has prepared and marketed 100,000 pounds of these in a year."
As yet the home demand is not supplied. As to foreign demand Mr. Taylor says: "From the favor which exhibits of this nut in the American station were received, it seems probable that a considerable export trade can be developed whenever the supply of choice nuts exceeds the demand for home consumption."
The present outlook favors the belief that the propagation and planting of the finest dessert varieties now obtainable on a largo scale on suitable land from Kentucky and Missouri south to southern Texas would prove far more profitable than orange-growing in California.