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Asimina triloba

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
ah-SIH-min-ah trih-LO-bah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Pawpaw is a deciduous, native, understory tree in the Annonaceae family. Its name is probably a modification of the Spanish papaya. It is native to Canada and the eastern U.S.A. where it grows in deep shade to full sunlight in moist, nutrient-rich forests. It will tolerate occasional wet or moist conditions but prefers good drainage and acidic soil.

In spring, 6-petaled, purplish-brown flowers mature. In late summer to early fall, pawpaw produces an edible, sweet-tasting, and custard like fruit measuring 2.5 to 6 inches. Harvesting the fruit can be difficult with competition from ambitious wildlife. It is recommended to wear gloves when harvesting as contact dermatitis has been known to occur.  The leaves turn a yellow color in the fall and provide interest.

Pawpaw does well in naturalized, riparian, or woodland areas. It is a flowering tree that attracts butterflies, pollinators, small mammals, and songbirds, which makes pawpaw a good addition to a butterfly, pollinator, or rain garden. Flies and beetles are attracted to the flower of the tree and are beneficial pollinators that contribute to the foul odor of the flower. 

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Quick ID Hints: 

  • Leaves produce an odor when crushed.
  • Leaves turn yellow in fall. 
  • Bark is smooth with wart-like lenticels

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems. 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Allegheny', A. parviflora, 'Davis', 'Mango', 'NC-1', 'Overleese', 'Potomac', 'Shenandoah', 'Sunflower', 'Susquehanna', 'Wabash'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#poisonous#rain garden#wildlife plants#native tree#native shrub#shade garden#fall interest#beneficial insects#understory tree#fruit tree#food source wildlife#low flammability#NC native#fire resistant#colonies#edible fruits#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#understory planting#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fall color yellow#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#ebh#ebh-fn#pollinator garden#black walnut toxicity tolerant#audubon#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#zebra swallowtail butterfly#paw paw#vhfn#vhfn-f
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Allegheny', A. parviflora, 'Davis', 'Mango', 'NC-1', 'Overleese', 'Potomac', 'Shenandoah', 'Sunflower', 'Susquehanna', 'Wabash'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#poisonous#rain garden#wildlife plants#native tree#native shrub#shade garden#fall interest#beneficial insects#understory tree#fruit tree#food source wildlife#low flammability#NC native#fire resistant#colonies#edible fruits#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#understory planting#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fall color yellow#fruits#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#ebh#ebh-fn#pollinator garden#black walnut toxicity tolerant#audubon#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#zebra swallowtail butterfly#paw paw#vhfn#vhfn-f
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asimina
    Species:
    triloba
    Family:
    Annonaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Canada and U.S.A., NC
    Distribution:
    WA south to NM, NE, IA. Parts of WI, MI east to ME, south to FL
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers are pollinated by flies and beetles. Edible flesh fruit eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, black bear, and foxes. This plant supports Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) larvae which has two flights between April and August in the north and many flights between March and December in the south. Adult Zebra Swallowtail butterflies feed on moisture from sand as well as flower nectar from plants like milkweed, blueberries, blackberry, lilacs, redbuds, verbenas, and dogbane.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire and moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Edibility:
    Mature fruits have a banana custard flavor. Raw berries can be eaten in small quantities but can cause stomach/skin irritation in some people.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Edible flesh fruit becomes soft and custard-like sweet taste similar to bananas, very nutritious. Glaucous surface. Displays from August to October. This plant needs a pollinator plant to set fruit.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Monoecious purplish-brown 6 petal 1-1.5 inch flowers bloom from March to May. Foul odor as they are pollinated by flies.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, obovate to oblong 6-12 inches long 2-3 inches wide with a green pepper odor when crushed. Droops from the stem. Looks compound but is actually simple. Underside is pale and glaucous.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Fissured
    Lenticels
    Scaly
    Bark Description:
    Smooth, brown splotched with wart-like lenticels. Becomes fissured and scaly with age.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Scales:
    No scales, covered in hair
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Buds are pubescent with no scales. Young buds and stems are cinnamon brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Small Tree
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Fire
    Heavy Shade
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Malodorous
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Stomach and intestinal pain. Skin irritation from handling fruit
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Leaves