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TREES & plants

Pawpaw

Leaves of the pawpaw tree.

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. 

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.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)photo: John Hagstrom

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.

 

Asimina triloba or Pawpaw