Pecan Tree Vs Walnut Tree: Side By Side

Pecan and Hickory are both members of the Walnut family. Despite this, there are some pretty big differences as well as many similarities between pecan trees vs. walnut trees. In this article, we will explore these in more detail. This may help you decide which type of tree to plant, or what nut, or to be more precise, drupe you want to eat. 

What Are The Differences Between A Pecan Tree And A Walnut Tree?

Differences Between A Pecan Tree And A Walnut Tree?

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between pecan trees and walnut trees:

What Do They Look Like?

Pecans and Walnuts both belong to the same family – Juglandaceae, which we simply call the walnut family. 

Pecan and walnut trees can look amazingly similar until you really get up really close and take a good look. 


These are pinnately compound and are found on both trees. Compound leaves are ones that have multiple leaflets to each petiole, which is the stem-like structure to forms a single leaf. This is similar to Ash or Horse Chestnut trees.

Pecan trees have 11 to 17 leaflets to a petiole, while walnuts have 15 to 23. 

The leaflets themselves are an elongated oval shape with a pointed tip that bends slightly downwards. These grow, mirroring each other on either side of the stem. 

Pecan leaves are usually smaller than those found on walnut trees, but the leaflets can be longer from 2.5 to 7 inches in length. They are a darker color on the upper side with a paler underside.

Walnut leaves are usually 12 to 24 inches long, with leaflets measuring between 2.5 and 5 inches. Walnut leaflets often have a more extended point and are more symmetrical overall.

If you look at the underside of a walnut leaflet, you will notice tiny hairs. The leaves are also a darker shade of green than pecans. 


Both trees produce catkins, and the number of catkins in a cluster is often greater on pecan trees than on walnuts. 

Catkins get their name from a dutch word meaning kitten tales, as they have a similar appearance. Cute!

The length of these catkins depends on the cultivar of pecan or walnut tree you have and if they are male or female.


Probably the simplest way of telling the difference between pecan and walnut trees is when they produce fruit. Although we call them nuts, they are, in reality, drups.

The hard shell of the nuts we are familiar with seeing in the store are, in fact, hidden inside a tough fibrous husk when growing on the tree. Pecan husks have an elliptical shape and are green until they split to reveal the nut underneath.

Walnut husks are rounded like a ball and between the size of a golf and tennis ball. They usually darken before falling from the tree once ripe.


The color and texture are incredibly similar, although walnut bark can be a little rougher than pecan. 

Where Do They Grow?

Pecans grow commonly in the southern United States and northern Mexico, and it isn’t uncommon to see pecans growing along roadsides and you’ll also probably spot plenty of old orchards too. 

Wild pecans (Carya illinoinensis) grew wild in North America in the Mississippi River basin and were popular with Native Americans long before they were cultivated. 

Commercial orchards appear in Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico, producing almost half of the world’s supply of pecan nuts. 

There are varieties to suit most climates in the US, from heat-loving trees through to frost-hardy ones. 

Walnuts, both Black and English, are grown in the US and Southern Canada. Most commercial orchards are located in California, with 99% coming from California’s Central Valley, but some are also found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Are They Native To The US?

The pecan is native to North America. It was named by Native Americans from the Algonquin tribe and is traceable as far back as the early 1500s. The translation of the word “pecane” roughly translates to “a nut that requires a stone to crack it,” which seems a pretty fair description.

The first pecans to be intentionally planted happened in 1772 at Long Island, NY. Increasing numbers were then planted as their popularity along the Atlantic Seaboard spread. 

The black walnut (Juglans nigra) is native to Eastern America. Other species from the genus Juglans including the English walnut, are not native. These originate in Asia, the West Indies, and southern Europe.  

How Big Do They Get?

A fully mature pecan tree can reach heights of 130 feet or more, but they usually grow to around 70 to 100 feet. The spread is up to 75 feet, with a trunk of 7 feet in diameter.

Mature black walnut trees will grow to between 100 to 120 feet in height, but an English walnut is smaller, growing to only 80 feet at maturity. Its trunk will be around 6.6 ft in diameter.

The size a tree reaches depends on many factors, including variety, location, and growing conditions.

How Long Do They Live?

Typically pecan trees will live for between 75 to 250 years, although sometimes they can live for longer in perfect conditions.

Black walnuts can get older than this, reaching an age of around 150 to 400 years. 

An English walnut tree generally doesn’t live so long as its black cousin, reaching around 150 years of age. 

As with size, longevity relies on the location and growing conditions, and overall health of the tree. 

Are They Suitable For Growing In My Yard?

This will depend on the size of your yard and where you are located. Luckily there are cultivars to suit most situations.

If you only have a small yard, a Pawnee Pecan is an excellent choice, being suitable for people with limited space. This is due to its relatively small size, as it only grows to about 30 feet tall with a similar width. 

Pawnee grows well from Georgia to Texas and is an exceptional type I pollinator. 

Another small cultivar with compact growth habit is the Cheyenne. It is also a type I pollinator. Remember, you will also require a type II pollinator if you want to produce nuts. 

This pecan chart can help you choose the perfect trees.

Black walnuts are a less popular tree for growing in domestic situations due to the juglone they release into the soil. This chemical can kill a wide range of other plants, including lots of veg (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers). 

Although both pecan trees and English walnuts also contain juglone, it is in far lower concentrations. It is less likely to affect the surrounding plants and vegetation. 

Often people believe they can buy a dwarf pecan or walnut tree, but there is no such thing. There are a couple of small walnut varieties, such as the Little Walnut or the Texas Walnut, that are smaller deciduous shrub-like trees and only grow to around 20 feet in height. 

Which Produces The Most Nuts?

This varies greatly with variety, location, and growing conditions, but an annual harvest average from commercial trees is 40 to 50 pounds per tree for pecans and 50 to 80 pounds for walnuts. 

What Are The Nutritional Values Of Their Fruits?

The nutritional values of pecans and walnuts are similar, except for a few notable areas. For a one-ounce serving, their values are as follows:


  • Calories – 190
  • Protein – 3 g
  • Fat – 20 g
  • Saturated fat – 2 g
  • Monounsaturated fat – 11 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat – 6 g
  • Cholesterol – 0 mg
  • Carbohydrate – 4 g
  • Fiber – 3 g
  • Calcium – 20 mg
  • Iron – 0.72 mg
  • Magnesium – 34 mg
  • Phosphorous – 79 mg
  • Potassium – 116 mg
  • Zinc – 1.28 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.06 mg 
  • Vitamin E – 0.04 mg
  • Vitamin K – 1.0 ug 


  • Calories -200
  • Protein – 5 g
  • Fat – 20 g
  • Saturated fat – 2 g
  • Monounsaturated fat – 2.5 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat – 14 g
  • Cholesterol – 0 mg
  • Carbohydrate -: 4 g
  • Fiber – 2 g
  • Calcium – 28 mg
  • Iron – 0.82 mg
  • Magnesium – 45 mg
  • Phosphorous – 98 mg
  • Potassium – 125 mg
  • Zinc – 0.88 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.152 mg 
  • Vitamin E – 0.02 mg 
  • Vitamin K – 0.8 ug 

As you can see, the most significant differences are in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content. However, both these kinds of fats are considered healthy. Walnuts have more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, but pecans are higher in zinc. They are also better when it comes to vitamin E content.

In this video, you can learn more about the health benefits of pecan nuts:

What Do The Nuts Taste Like?

This is subject to personal opinion, but pecan nuts are generally sweeter than walnuts. Black walnuts have a strong, dry taste, while English walnuts have a milder flavor.

Is A Pecan And A Walnut The Same?

Not only do pecan and walnut trees look similar, but they are also from the same family  Juglandaceae. But as we have already seen, there are quite a number of subtle differences and a few larger ones too.

When it comes to the fruits, they differ in shape, taste, and nutritional value, but they can be used in cuisine for very similar purposes; although I think I would prefer a pecan pie over a walnut one, but walnut cake is delicious!

Which Is Better, Pecan or Walnut?

When trying to judge which is better, it depends on what you are comparing. They are both good in their own ways. Pecan nuts are sweeter than walnuts, but walnuts have slightly higher nutritional values in several areas.

The trees themselves favor very different climates, and black walnuts can adversely affect the growth of other plants around them.

All in all, it is best to judge depending on what you want to use the pecan or walnut for, where you live, and your growing conditions. Before selecting a tree, get advice from a professional grower in your area, as they will be able to advise you of the perfect specimen for your needs.

What is the Difference Between Pecan Nuts and Walnuts?

There are quite a few differences between the nuts:

  • Shells – Pecans are usually smaller than walnuts. Pecan shells are generally a reddish brown color and are oval in shape, while walnut shells are a paler creamy brown for English walnuts or a dark brown-black for black walnuts. 
  • Nut meat – Pecan nut meat is in two halves inside the shell and is generally a similar color to the shell. Walnut meat is also in two halves but is a rounder shape and a paler brown color. 
  • Taste – The slightly bitter taste of walnuts, along with their crunchy texture, makes them great to use in salads, oatmeal, granola, and even ground down in cakes. Pecans are sweeter and are suitable for accompanying casseroles or for use on pastries and in pie fillings. 


Although pecan and walnut trees look incredibly similar, there are distinct differences between the two. 

The nuts they produce have different flavor profiles as well as appearance. Their nutritional values also vary. 

Pecan trees tend to grow taller and will flourish in warmer hardiness zones 5 to 9, while walnuts prefer slightly cooler temperatures and can survive in hardiness zones 4 to 9. 

The chemical juglone that black walnuts emit can cause problems in domestic garden situations.

Learn more about growing pecan and walnut trees by reading the information-packed articles on our site. 

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