I think every pecan grower dreams about finding a new pecan cultivar, preferably a tree that grows from a seed he planted. Many of the northern pecan cultivars propagated today are either selections from native pecan groves or chance seedlings planted by a pecan enthusiast. Today, I'd like to share with you a couple of stories behind three pecan cultivars.
I first met Bill Totten at a Northern Nut Growers Meeting back in 1983. Bill was an active member of a team of Illinois pecan enthusiasts searching the Upper Mississippi River bottoms for great, early-ripening northern pecans. About ten years ago he sent me a sample of a nut from a seedling tree he had growing near his home in Alexis, IL. He called the nut "Hark", and I was very impressed by the kernel quality and high percent kernel (>56%). He sent me some scions later that spring and we grafted "Hark" at the Experiment Field for advanced testing.
It takes 13 to 20 years for a seedling pecan tree to bear nuts. Planting seeds in the hopes of finding a superior pecan cultivar is a fun but not very profitable venture. The vast majority of seedling trees will produce nuts inferior to the seed parent. However, we are fortunate to have a few dreamers like Ed and Bill that attempt to beat the odds.