Making pecans for over a century

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2001

Juluin Bush, 52 of McKenzie knew the pecan tree in his mother's yard was old, but he never thought it was the biggest in Alabama.

But according to the Alabama Forestry Commission, Bush's tree is the State Champion.'

"Best I can tell, the tree is over 100 years old," Bush said. "This used to be part of the Foshee Farm."

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State Foresters Steve Perdue and Michael King recently traveled the 15-mile ride south of McGowin Tower in Chapman to measure the tree.

The tree, which is marked by a sign that states "Designated by the Alabama Forestry Commission as the largest of its species in the State of Alabama in 1999," is now being measured for national competition.

The 116-foot tall Seedling' Pecan tree (carya illinoensis) has been in Bush's family for roughly 48 years, says Bush.

"There were eight of us coming up," Bush said, "and Mama and Daddy would get most of our Christmas presents from the sale of the pecans in this tree.

Bush said while he doesn't recall exactly what the average yield of the tree was over the years, one in particular stands out.

"Pecan trees have an on-one-year, off-the-next' season to their fruit," Bush said. "The best year I remember us having was in 1999, when we sold 1,644 pounds of pecans."

Although the pecans stopped falling from the champion several months ago, those on the ground are still good.

"The seedling pecan has such a tough shell, they will last on the ground as long as worms don't get them," Bush said.

The tree, which measures more than 72 inches in diameter at the trunk, has a fond place in Bush's memory.

"The eight of us would climb that tree every day," Bush said. "We had rope swings in it, and cables; we just grew up in that tree."

The tree has weathered many storms over the years, but one in particular stands out in Bush's memory.

"A big limb fell from the tree during Hurricane Opal," he said. "That was the worst storm I can remember, so far as the tree is concerned."

Bush, who drives a truck for his living, said he intends to keep the tree preserved as long as it will survive.

"I am planning on moving the house, part of which has been here as long as the tree, more toward the front of the property, "Bush said. "When Mama passed away, my family asked me if I wanted to keep the old homeplace, and that was when I moved back."

Bush said he appreciates the attention the tree is bringing to the community.

"If this is a way to put McKenzie back on the map, then I am all for it," he said.

So Bush continues to nurture the tree, fertilizing it, in hopes that it will remain a community landmark for many years to come.