Native and seedling trees are similar since they both originate from seed. However, a ‘native’ pecan tree is generally defined as one that grows in the place where it fell from a tree in a regenerating pecan stand, without any influence from humans.
When native trees grow in stands or groups as nature has planted them, they are referred to as pecan groves. Native pecans often exist in regenerating stands that may have been on the same site for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Horticulturists often refer to trees grown from nuts for which the maternal parent is known, but not the pollen parents, as seedling trees. Nuts may have been selected because of size, best disease resistance or simply the transportation of the seed from some other site.
People generally organize plantings into uniform rows and call the resulting stands ‘orchards’ rather than ‘groves.’ Many early pecan breeders and homeowners planted seed of the best native trees after years of observation. Many current pecan cultivars originated from these plantings.
Question answered by Dr. Charles Graham
, Pecan Research-Extension Station