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|Historical period: Frontier Texas (1865 – 1899)
Historical topics: Pecan-Our State Tree, Saved From The Axe
Species: Pecan (Carya illionoiensis)
County: San Saba
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Tree Tour: Coming Soon
The San Saba Mother Pecan was discovered by an Englishman named E. E. Risien, a cabinet-maker by trade, who became fascinated with pecans. Risien staged the first pecan show in San Saba County to find the best pecan specimen. After the judging, he asked the winning exhibitor to show him the tree from which his pecans came. Risien was horrified when he saw it, for all the limbs had been sawed off except one. The man said that he had used that limb to stand on while he cut the others off to get the nuts!
Risien eventually bought the tree and the land on which it stood. Slowly the tree grew a new crown and once again began producing crops of the prize nuts.
Thinking he could reproduce the fruit by seedlings, he planted the first commercial pecan nursery in San Saba County. In that 40-acre nursery, none of the more than 1,000 pecan nuts planted produced trees of like fruit.
Artificial pollination of the “mother tree” continued for years as he tried to develop new varieties. He would ride horseback for miles seeking suitable “father trees,” gather the pollen-laden male blossoms in his saddle-bags, and bring them back to pollinate the “mother tree.” It generally took about 10 years to know whether he had a new and better variety.
In addition to his pollination experiments, Risien also experimented with budding and grafting pecans when few people knew it could be done.
Records of the first meeting of the Texas State Horticultural Society, held in Brenham in 1886, indicate that Risien won the honor of showing the best plate of pecans. For years after, his pecans were always top winners.