SONG News Spring 1980 no. 16
In this Issue...

The Planting of the Seed at Orangeville

More than 40 energetic nut growers gathered at the Orangeville Reservoir Property of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority on October 27, 1979 to establish the first seed planted nut grove in North America. The day was crisp. The sun was bright. The gently rolling hills sparkled on all horizons. The nut growers assembled at the field house of the Authority and soon a roaring fire was going in the ample fireplace. The members gathered round and proceeded to enjoy their indoor picnic lunches as well as indulge in much visiting about nut growing.

Then the members went for a short stroll to the place where the nut grove was to be established ... approximately 3 acres which are surrounded by protective hedgerows of trees. More than 200 lb. of top quality, hardy nut seeds of a dozen or more different species had been collected for the purpose. The members organized into planting teams ... each taking a different species of nut seed. The planting rows had been marked in advance and a sub-soiler had loosened the earth. As the several spades went into action, the combination of activity and bright sun produced a sensation of warmth and purpose which more than compensated for the brisk temperatures of the day.

All the nuts were planted within 2 short hours; the rows were marked with annotated stakes for future referencing and the executive officers and Authority representatives were posing for pictures for the local newspaper!! When members were taking their leave at day's end, there was a common curiosity of what mysterious quantities might spring forth from this property in future years??

The Hicans ... Mysterious Denizens of the Forests

Many people are familiar with the hickories and equal numbers or more so with pecans....but Hicans are something else. In fact most people display a response of disbelief when first exposed to the subject....did I hear that man correctly....or did he really say Hican? Yes, hicans do exist and they are the hybrids between the several northern species of hickory and the more southerly inclined pecan. Several combinations have been identified: Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) x Pecan (Carya illinoensis) Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa) x Pecan Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) x Pecan

All of these species have 32 chromosomes in their genetic makeup and it is likely that further hybrids can be achieved with the other 32 chromosome hickories and cross-combinations thereof. A great deal of interest in hicans was in evidence in the period from 1880 to the 1920's. Several dozen hican selections were named in that interval and many of them were found in the wild in the northern range of the pecan such as Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. The hicans are far from numerous in their native range. In fact you would have to search for many days or else know someone who owns one of these unique trees. Many of the naturally occurring hicans are worthless. However several of the named selections (cultivars) may be of some interest for extending the northern range of trees which have thin shelled, pecan-like nuts with relatively high percentage kernel. Some of the better cultivars for consideration in Ontario are as follows:

  1. Shagbark Hickory x Pecan Hybrids
  2. Shellbark Hickory x Pecan Hybrids
  3. Bitternut Hickory x Pecan Hybrids

Your editor has accumulated some experience with the germination of hican nuts for the purpose of growing hican seedlings (Queenston, Ontario). Nuts of Burton, Burlington, McCallister, Clarksville, Gerardi, scarcely germinate at all, perhaps 1 in 200 seeds. Henke, Rockville, Des Moines, Nussbaumer and Pleas give fair germinations, as many as 1 in 5 sprouting from some seed lots. It's not the most impressive germination in the world but at least it's a foot in the door for experimenting with some of nature's most bizarre and exotic nut trees. Some entertaining observations have been noticed even in the young seedlings from various seed lots:

The following hican seedlings have been set out on more or less permanent locations to see what will happen when they come into bearing:

It should be noted that there is a minor tendency for some of the hickory-appearing seedlings to shift into the pecan-appearing category as time progresses. Therefore the numerical rankings may change slightly. (I have no explanation for this ability to change character.)

No doubt, there are some fascinating future observations to be made with these 26 hybrid trees. All are growing extremely well. Who knows? Perhaps there may be one or more extra hardy trees which produce early maturing nuts which look like pecans?

Report - 1975-76 Nut Seed Distribution
Hardiness of Heartnut Seedlings

Roy E. Metcalfe, 2680 Canberra Road, Mississauga, Ontario L5N 1M7

This report is a tabulation of the results gained from the questionnaires returned after the 1978 growing season for the Heartnuts distributed in the spring of 1976. It took considerably longer than anticipated to correlate the data; hence, this report is a year later in appearing than when it was promised. The results, however, are very interesting and encouraging.

Characteristics of the data collected
Many of the reports gave a range of heights for the observed seedlings rather than the height of each seedling. In such cases I averaged the height for all of the trees in that report. Also, there was a tendency to report the height to the nearest one half foot - figure A shows this. If either the location of the growing site or the height was not reported then that report was not used in this analysis. They will be retained and included in future activities.

The bulk of the participants are located in Southern Ontario. The map shows the growing sites for both M-75 and PAP-75 seedlings. There are a number of reports included in the analysis from Northern Ontario and other parts of the Country. Since they are so scattered, no attempt was made to show them on a map.

Figure A shows the typical variation in growth for seedlings in any hardiness zone. If there were less than seven reporting sites within a zone then the calculated average height is shown as a dashed symbol rather than a solid one in figure B. Such a small number of trees would make the average height be somewhat uncertain.

Whether there are enough observations within the whole study on which to base solid conclusions, I am not sure. I have not attempted to perform any statistical analysis on the data. I think definite growth trends are shown; and I propose the following tentative conclusions.

Future actions
Questionnaires will be sent out this fall or next summer in order to verify these conclusions. In addition, further details will be sought concerning the trees showing the most vigorous growth One possible way to screen a large number of seedlings would be to establish several nurseries at selected sites. For example, a prairie site in zone 3b, an Ontario site in zone 5a or 4b, and possibly a site in zone 6.

If any readers have comments or suggestions about either of these actions I would be most pleased to hear from them,

Letters to the Editor

My interest is in promoting nut growing in our area. I am currently the Seaforth representative to the "Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority" and also I serve on the "Reforestation, Wild Life and Land Use" advisory committee. I feel that there is a very worthwhile future for nut growing which could develop here.
Leone Rowat, 25 Church St., Seaforth ON

I would like to join your organization and get back-copies of your newsletters. I am trying to assist the Indian people of Canada regain and maintain a high level of health and one way to do this is through the growing of wholesome food.
Edward Dunn, Medical Research Analyst, National Indian Brotherhood, 102 Bank St., Ottawa ON K1P 5N4

I'm a SONG member out here in Alberta trying some of the hardier nuts. I'm looking for a source of a filbert called "Cosford" for breeding stock and am interested in a rooted plant or cuttings.
Rene Haasdyk, 4418-116 Avenue, Edmonton AB T5W 0X3

I was all set to write a polite and regretful letter to the Treasurer ... but her name without address appears on the first page of the last newsletter. Because I now read so badly owing to age and never have been able to attend SONG meetings, I've decided not to renew my membership in SONG. I have had space enough here to plant nut trees and have planted a few and although I did not really expect to be around long enough to see them mature ... did rather hope. However, I'll likely only be here for one more summer and as I said, reading, though not impossible, is a slow and difficult thing. So with regret, I say goodbye to SONG although I will continue to be interested in nut culture as long as possible.

Not all women do stupid things, but if any of us want to be accepted as equals surely we can do an equally good job. Nuts to women's lib!
Nuts to you, too ... plentiful crops of good ones!
Mary Carroll, R.R.#1 Cayuga ON N0A 1E0

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