Pawpaws: a native ornamental and edible

When it comes to growing fruit at home, nothing could be easier, prettier, or tastier than the pawpaw (Asimina triloba).  This deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet.  It’s 6 to 12 inch long, tropical-looking leaves turn yellow in the fall.  Purple, one- to two-inch wide flowers appear in the spring and are pollinated by flies and beetles, undoubtedly attracted to the irresistible carrion-like scent of the blooms.  Cross-pollination must occur for fruit set to occur, because an individual pawpaw is incapable of fertilizing its own flowers.  They give rise to large bean-shaped fruit, which grow to about three to six inches long and one to three inches wide.  The fruit has a fragrant aroma, a custard-like texture, and a banana-like taste.

For quality fruit, choose named cultivars such as Shenandoah, Susquehanna, and Rappahannock.  If price is more important than quality, purchase seedling trees.

Pawpaws are difficult to transplant, so select container-grown cultivars to improve your chances at successfully establishing them in your landscape.  Choose a moist, well-drained location in full sun or partial shade.  Water the newly planted trees regularly during their establishment period.

Once pawpaws settle in, their horizontal roots create sprouts that emerge some distance from the trunk.  Mowing will suppress these emerging shoots from becoming an unmanageable thicket.

For additional information and links concerning pawpaws, visit http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu.

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