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Asimina triloba is often confused with:
Asimina parviflora Native habitat
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Asimina triloba 'Allegheny' Asimina triloba 'Allegheny'
Asimina triloba 'NC-1' Asimina triloba ‘NC-1’
Asimina triloba 'Overleese' Asimina triloba 'Overleese'
Asimina triloba has some other problems:
Stinging Rose Caterpillar

Pawpaw Asimina triloba

Other 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. Flowers have both male and female parts but are self-incompatible. A genetically different pollen donor (a pollinizer) is needed for fruit production. 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 beneficial pollinators attracted to the fetid odor of flowers. It is an easy-to-grow fruit tree for children's gardens.

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 "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Mountain Ridge Top Garden - North Woods
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Allegheny', 'Davis', 'Mango', 'NC-1', 'Overleese', 'Potomac', 'Shenandoah', 'Sunflower', 'Susquehanna', 'Wabash'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#poisonous#rain garden#native tree#fragrant leaves#native shrub#shade garden#fall interest#beneficial insects#understory tree#fruit tree#showy fruits#fire low flammability#NC native#edible fruits#pollinator plant#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#understory planting#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fall color yellow#bird friendly#pollinizer#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#ebh#ebh-fn#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#colonizing#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#zebra swallowtail butterfly#paw paw#vhfn#vhfn-f#butterfly caterpillar host#early childhood#wildlife friendly#child#children#preschool#early care
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Allegheny', 'Davis', 'Mango', 'NC-1', 'Overleese', 'Potomac', 'Shenandoah', 'Sunflower', 'Susquehanna', 'Wabash'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#shade tree#poisonous#rain garden#native tree#fragrant leaves#native shrub#shade garden#fall interest#beneficial insects#understory tree#fruit tree#showy fruits#fire low flammability#NC native#edible fruits#pollinator plant#edible garden#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#understory planting#food source herbage#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fall color yellow#bird friendly#pollinizer#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#malodorous#ebh#ebh-fn#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#colonizing#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#zebra swallowtail butterfly#paw paw#vhfn#vhfn-f#butterfly caterpillar host#early childhood#wildlife friendly#child#children#preschool#early care
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asimina
    Species:
    triloba
    Family:
    Annonaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    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:
    Its flowers are pollinated by flies and beetles. Its fleshy fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, black bears, and foxes. Pawpaws are larval host plants for the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus). The adult butterflies lay eggs in the north during two flights between April and August and in the south between March and December. Since adult Zebra Swallowtail butterflies also feed on flower nectar from milkweed, blueberries, blackberries, lilacs, redbuds, verbenas, and dogbane, consider adding these near pawpaws.
    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 fruits 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
    Perennial
    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, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • 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 fleshy fruit becomes soft and custard-like sweet taste similar to bananas, very nutritious. Glaucous surface. Displays from August to October. This plant needs a pollinizer 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:
    Perfect (but self-incompatible). The burgundy flowers bloom in spring but are not showy. They are purplish brown with 6 petals and are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. They have a 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. The leaves are in two ranks and hang pendulously from the stem. The leaf 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
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native 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 from eating the fruit skin or seeds. Skin irritation from handling fruit.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Leaves