Learn About Pecan’s Intersection of Biodiversity & Human Diversity From Arboretum’s Director Series

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The Arnold Arboretum is exploring the meaning, history, and cultural entwines of the pecan in a three-part series.

The Arboretum's 2021 Director's Lecture Series Pecan: The Intersection of Biodiversity and Human Diversity will run for free for three consecutive Mondays starting Feb. 22.

The pecan tree is native to a region stretching from central Texas to western Alabama, and from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Illinois. Most pecans grown for commercial consumption come from New Mexico and Georgia, which are places with no native pecans, according to the Arboretum.

"What makes the extension of pecan production beyond its native habitat possible is the art and science of domestication. The pecan tree went from being primarily wild to primarily domesticated in an astonishingly quick period of time--a matter of decades," described the Feb. 22 lecture registration site.

James McWilliams will talk about the intricacies of this process while challenging us to think more critically about what we mean by ideas such as "natural," "artificial," and "authentic," all of which are central to understanding the food we produce and consume.

Robin Will Kimmerer will draw upon an old family story of how the Pecans fed her Potawatomi ancestors during the desperate times of poverty in Indian Territory, said the March 1 lecture registration site. Kimmerer will talk about the ecological and cultural losses of the era of removal.

Tiya Miles will talk about the pecan tree as inspiration for exploring the meaning of trees in the lives of enslaved African Americans. Miles will use a family heirloom passed down by Black women, slave narratives, oral histories, and missionary records for her presentation. She will discuss the importance of trees as protectors of bodies and spirits, as sites of violence, as memory keepers, and as historical witnesses in the Black experience of captivity and resistance, according to the March 8 registration site.

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