Connected Sustainability | Pawpaw
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Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal



How to Recognize Me

Pawpaw is an understory tree or large shrub that grows in low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines and along streams. It often spreads by root suckers to form colonies or thickets. Large, slightly drooping, elliptical, medium green leaves 6-12” long retain green color well into Autumn before turning to a bright, but sometimes undistinguished, yellow.

Cup-shaped flowers with three green sepals and six purple petals in two tiers appear in spring and give way to edible, oblong, yellowish green fruits that mature in early autumn to a dark brown. At least two trees are necessary for fruit production to ensure cross-pollination. Since the Asimina triloba flower is said to smell like rotting meat, bees and other insects show little interest, making hand-pollination sometimes required.


I Hold a Special Place In History

With a creamy, custard-like consistency and sweet flavor, fruits are frequently eaten raw or used in ice creams or pies, although they can produce nausea in some people. Pawpaws and nuts fed the Lewis & Clark expedition on their return trip in the fall of 1810 when their rations ran low

and no game was to be found. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson favored pawpaws as a dessert.


I Am Special to Wildlife

Raccoons, squirrels, gray foxes and opossums eagerly seek out the fruits and often beat humans to the harvest. Early Americans made a yellow dye from the pulp of the ripened fruit.

I Am Special to My Watershed

The natural insecticides in the leaves, twigs and bark can be used to make an organic pesticide and make the trees virtually insect resistant. The pawpaw is particularly valued for establishing fast-growing vegetation in areas where frequent flooding might produce erosion, since their root systems help hold stream banks steady.


The Facts

  • Height: 15’ – 30’
  • Spread: 15’ – 30’
  • Sun: full sun to part shade
  • Soil: medium to wet, well drained but moist, fertile and acidic Bloom Time: April to May Bloom Description: purple Flower: fragrant, insignificant Fruit: showy, edible
  • Tolerate: wet soil
  • Suggested Use: rain garden, wetlands, stream banks
Noted Trees