Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 291 Asimina triloba

Common Names: pawpaw, Indiana banana, Hoosier banana Family: Annonaceae (annona Family)
Image Gallery

A cluster of pawpaw fruit
This cluster of pawpaw fruit is not yet ripe but when it is there will be a race between man and beast to see who will claim this delicious prize.

Description

Common pawpaw is a small tree to 25 ft (7.6 m) tall with big drooping, tropical-looking leaves. These are up to a 1 ft (0.3 m) long and turn brown and gold in autumn. The maroon flowers, about 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) across appear before the leaves in spring, growing right out of the smooth, gray bark of the previous season's growth. The greenish fruits are shaped like bananas or mangos. They are 3-6 in (7.6-15 cm) long and hang in clusters with 2 to 9 pawpaws per cluster. When ripe, the fruit tastes like a creamy mixture of banana and pineapple. Pawpaws are prone to suckering (sending up shoots), and the proverbial pawpaw patch is often a clone arising from a single individual.

ripe pawpaws
The cluster survived to maturity and Steve claimed his prize soon after this picture was taken. He reports that they are "incredibly delicious"!
pawpaw flower
This is a closeup of a pawpaw flower. They appear in April before the tree leafs out.

Location

Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, is native to the Eastern United States where it grows in the understory of mixed hardwood forests, on slopes and in rarely flooded bottomlands.

Culture

The Pawpaw likes rich, well-drained soil. It requires filtered sun or shade for its first year or two, but can be allowed full sun after that. Its roots depend on a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, so keep the soil healthy. Light: Partial sun or filtered shade is best for young trees. Older trees thrive in full sun. Moisture: Pawpaw needs average watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Propagation: Grow pawpaw from seed. In order to insure that the proper soil microbes are present, get a few tablespoonfuls of soil from the root area of a wild pawpaw to inoculate the soil where your seedling pawpaw is planted. Named cultivars are grafted onto seedling rootstock. The suckers won't survive transplanting and cuttings won't take root. Pawpaw has a long taproot that makes it difficult to transplant (container grown specimens are the exception).

Usage

With its drooping, tropical looking leaves and shade loving temper, pawpaw is a good choice for a small specimen tree in a shady landscape.

pawpaw tree
The pawpaw has beautiful form and foliage and makes a very handsome small specimen tree.

Features

There are 7 other species of Asimina, all of which occur in the eastern US, and all of which are smaller and have smaller fruits than common pawpaw. One species (A. tetrapetalum) is an endangered species restricted to scrub in coastal SE Florida. Other members of the custard apple family include the cherimoya, the custard apples, sweetsop and soursop (all in the genus Annona), which are tropical trees grown for their edible dessert fruits.

Pawpaw has the largest edible fruit of any North American plant. The pawpaws are up to 6 in (15 cm) long and weigh about 1 lb (0.5 kg). Researchers at Purdue University, Kentucky State University and other institutions are trying to develop cultivars for the home orchard and commercial production. To learn more about pawpaws and recent developments in pawpaw culture and research, visit the Pawpaw Research Project at Kentucky State University.

Sing Along:
The Pawpaw Patch
Where, oh where, is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where, is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where, is dear little Nellie?
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
Come on, boys, let's go find her.
Come on, boys, let's go find her,
Come on, boys, let's go find her,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
Picking up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Picking up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Picking up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
(Traditional)

Steve Christman 11/10/00; updated 5/4/03, 7/7/04



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Asimina species profiled on Floridata:


Asimina triloba

( pawpaw, Indiana banana, Hoosier banana )

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