Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Asimina triloba


Pawpaw, Indian banana, Common pawpaw


Annonaceae (Custard-Apple Family)



Asimina triloba (Pawpaw)
Makin, Julie
Common pawpaw is a small, short-trunked tree or large, multi-stemmed shrub, 10-40 ft. tall, with large, tropical-like leaves. Young shoots and leaves are covered with a rusty down, later becoming smooth. The thick, bright-green, deciduous leaves turn yellow-green in fall. Not particularly showy, but interesting, purple, six-petaled flowers are borne singly in leaf axils before leaf emergence. Large, cylindric, dark-green or yellow, edible fruit follows.

Common Pawpaw is the northernmost New World representative of a chiefly tropical family, which includes the popular tropical fruits Annona, Custard-apple, Sugar-apple, and Soursop. The wild fruit was once harvested, but the supply has now decreased greatly due to the clearing of forests. The small crop is generally consumed only by wildlife, such as opossums, squirrels, raccoons, and birds. Attempts have been made to cultivate Common Pawpaw as a fruit tree. First recorded by the DeSoto expedition in the lower Mississippi Valley in 1541. The name Common Pawpaw is from the Arawakan name of Papaya, an unrelated tropical American fruit.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Obovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acuminate
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Tree up to 40 feet tall; trunk diameter up to 10 inches; crown broad and spreading.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, broadly elliptic, pointed at the tip, narrowed to the base, without teeth, rusty-hairy when young, but becoming smooth, paler on the lower surface, up to 12 inches long, up to 6 inches wide.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Borne singly when the leaves begin to unfold, up to 1 1/2 inches across.
Fruit: Fleshy, oblong, thick, up to 6 inches long, greenish yellow, with several dark brown seeds.
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Red , Yellow , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr , May

Distribution

USA: AL , AR , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MI , MS , MO , NE , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: FL to TX, n. to w. NY, s. Ont., MI, IL, s.e. IA & s.e. NE
Native Habitat: Ditches, Ravines, Depressions, Flood plains, bottomland

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Rich, moist, slightly acid soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: This is a good understory tree. No serious disease or insect problems. The fruit can create a mess on sidewalks and patios, but this can be minimized by planting only one tree; pawpaws seldom set much fruit without cross pollination.

Benefit

Use Ornamental: Understory tree, Aromatic, Fall conspicuous
Use Wildlife: Small mammals relish the fragrant fruit which tastes banana-like. Fruit-mammals, Fruit-birds.
Use Food: First Nations People and European settlers have long used the fruit as food. First Nations People used the fruit fresh and made it into cakes and sauces, or dried and used it as winter food. Some people reportedly develop contact dermatitis after frequent exposure to the fruits. (Athenic) EDIBLE PARTS: Raw berries (fruits) in small quantity. The fruits generally fall to the ground before they are ripe and therefore must be ripened at home. Ripen outdoors -- the smell is overpowering. The fruit is ripe when the skin turns brown. The fruit can be eaten raw, cutting them in half like an avocado, removing the large oblong seeds and sprinkling with lemon juice. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Warning: The fruit, though edible, can cause skin irritation and gastrointestinal upset in some individuals. POISONOUS PARTS: Fruit, leaves. Skin irritation when handling fruit; low toxicity when ingested. Fruit edible but some symptoms might include severe stomach and intestinal pain for some people.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Asimina triloba is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Zebra Swallowtail
(Eurytides marcellus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Pawpaw sphinx
(Dolba hyloeus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2014-03-26