|Stuart nuts at shuck-split|
Stuart is one of the oldest and most widely known pecan cultivars. The tree had its origins in a seedling orchard planted in 1874 outside of Pascagoula, Mississippi using nuts procured from Mobile, Alabama. The tree gained local notoriety for excellent nut production. In 1893, a severe storm blew the original tree down. Fortunately, the tree re-emerged from a root sprout and the tree began bearing nuts again by 1902.
The first attempt to graft Stuart was largely a failure. In 1886, sixty grafts were attempted but only one grew successfully. Graft failure was all too common during the late 1800's as nurserymen used grafting techniques commonly used for fruit trees when trying to propagate pecans. However, by the early 1900's, grafting techniques specifically developed for pecan improved success rates dramatically. From the 1920's to the 1950's Stuart quickly became the dominant cultivar planted across the southeastern United States.
|Stuart grown in SE Kansas 2017|
|Poorly formed Stuart kernels|
No additions of water or fertilizer will ever alter the fact that Stuart will never make a decent kernel in northern areas. Stuart requires a longer growing season than northern pecan areas can provide for proper kernel development.
One of the most interesting artifacts of the popularity of Stuart is the large number of Stuart seedlings that can be found growing all over the US, even in northern areas. During the Great Depression and war years (1930's and 1940's), pecans were a popular stocking stuffer for Christmas. The majority of gift basket pecans at that time were Stuart nuts and some of those nuts found their way into backyard gardens to eventually sprout into trees. Today, you can find massive 90+ year-old trees that produce a blocky shaped nut that looks a lot like a Stuart nut but is generally smaller in size. These seedlings also produce nuts that struggle to produce quality kernels in northern climates just like the mother Stuart tree.