Pawpaw

Pawpaw fruit.

Whether planted in full sun or part shade, the pawpaw tree, native to the Midwest, works well as a specimen, or can be useful as a screen.  Nodding, dark purple flowers in the spring, elongated edible fruit in the summer, and a yellow to yellow-green fall color add to the appeal of this small understory tree. Pawpaws may be difficult to find in nurseries.  This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name:

Asimina triloba

All Common Names:

pawpaw, paw paw, Indiana banana, prairie banana

Family (English):

Custard Apple

Family (Botanic):

Annonaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Under utility lines

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

15-20 feet

Mature Width:

15-20 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Intolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Excessive sucker growth,
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fall color,
  • Edible fruit,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Purple

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Pyramidal,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • No

Wildlife:

  • Game birds,
  • Game mammals,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Pawpaw is a small native understory tree.
It grows in low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines and along streams.
Its spreading habit forms colonies or thickets.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious disease or insect problems.
Sensitive to drought.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to deer browse.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 9
Common in woodlands and low, wet areas.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray and relatively smooth.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves; 12 inches long; leaves resemble magnolia leaves.
Fall color is yellow to yellow-green.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Cup-shaped, 6-petaled, nodding purple flowers appear in spring.
Odor similar to fermented grapes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Edible, cylindrical, 6 inch long,  yellowish green fruits which mature in early autumn.
Flavor and flesh consistency of the fruit resembles that of bananas.
Best fruit production occurs when two trees are growing near one another.

Cultivars and their differences

Mango pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Mango'):  Produces large, flavorful fruit with orange-yellow flesh.  A late-ripening cultivar.  Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.

NC-1 pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'NC-1'): Produces large fruit with fewer seeds and thinner skin.  An early-ripening cultivar.  Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Pennsylvania Golden pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Pennsylvania Golden'):  Very sweet fruit; a very early-ripening cultivar.  Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.

Prolific pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Prolific'): Produces large crop at an early age.  An early-ripening cultivar.  Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Overleese pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Overleese'):  Large fruit with few seeds.  An early-ripening cultivar.  Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Sunflower pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Sunflower'):  Produces large fruit with fewer seeds.  Ripens later than other cultivars.  Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.

 

Location of Asimina triloba (Pawpaw) at the Arboretum