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.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Residential and parks,
- Under utility lines
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Excessive sucker growth,
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Edible fruit,
- Showy fruit,
- Showy flowers,
- Attractive bark
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall
- Game birds,
- Game mammals,
- Small mammals
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
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.