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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Multiple pecan trees planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala

Over a dozen pecan trees were recently planted at the McPherson Campus in the area where a former orchard once stood.

According to the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department, the planting of these trees at the McPherson Campus is part of a larger initiative to re-establish a healthy and long-living tree canopy.

Long before the McPherson Campus became the hub of Marion County’s local government activity, and even prior to becoming a school for young women, the campus was home to a multi-acre pecan orchard.

While it is unknown when the orchard was originally planted, a curated collection of photos, plans, and additional research documents from the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology points toward the late 1800s.

First of pecan trees planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala (Nov 2023) 3
The first 17 of 25 pecan trees have been planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala (Photo: Marion County Parks and Recreation Department)

As part of the parks and recreation department’s initiative to restore a piece of the McPherson Campus’ history, the first 17 of 25 pecan trees have been planted.

First of pecan trees planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala (Nov 2023) 7
Over two dozen pecan trees are being planted at McPherson Campus where a former orchard once stood (Photo: Marion County Parks and Recreation Department)

Pecan trees are native to the southeast, and the state of Florida produces between 5 and 10 million pounds of pecans annually, according to Andersen, P., & Shahid, M. (2004), The Pecan Tree, UF/IFAS Extension Service.

Since pecan trees require cross-pollination between varieties to produce nuts, the parks and recreation department is planting a total of 25 trees of the ‘Elliot’ and ‘Ambling’ varieties.

First of pecan trees planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala (Nov 2023) 4
The pecan trees being planted at McPherson Campus consist of the ‘Elliot’ and ‘Ambling’ varieties (Photo: Marion County Parks and Recreation Department)

The trees are expected to start producing pecans a few years after they are planted, with full production happening around 9 to 12 years after planting, according to Marion County Public Relations.

First of pecan trees planted at McPherson Campus in Ocala (Nov 2023) 1
Each tree will likely begin producing pecans in around three years (Photo: Marion County Parks and Recreation Department)

This project also includes the removal of invasive species of trees which tend to out-compete native trees for resources. Several large Camphor trees will be removed along the northern end of the McPherson Campus in compliance with the City of Ocala’s tree removal requirements.

“We saw how much canopy has been lost through the decline and removal of several trees, not just pecans. We worked with county administration to develop a tree master plan for the campus,” stated Jim Couillard, PLA, director of Marion County Parks & Recreation and landscape architect. “We’re replacing the invasive trees with native trees more suitable for this area.”

Funding for this tree planting project is being provided by the Tree Mitigation Fund, a general trust fund created to enhance tree replacement in Marion County.

“The pecan trees on the McPherson Campus are actually a part of our cultural landscape. We are now in the process of replanting as much of the orchard as space allows, and in a few years, the new trees will be ‘bearing fruit’ for everyone to enjoy,” added Couillard.

For more information, contact the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department via phone (352-671-8560) or email (Parks@MarionFL.org).