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Fascinating Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is an understory tree that has the largest fruit of the native plants in North America. Pawpaw has purple-brown flowers that bloom in the spring with a green fruit in the late summer to fall. It is the host plant for the Zebra Swallowtail. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and History of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) — New York Botanical Garden, CC BY 4.0, via Index Kewensis

Taxonomy

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) was originally described by Carl Von Linnaeus as Annona triloba in 1753 in Species Plantarum. The genus name was later changed in 1817 by Michel Dunal, a French botanist to Asimina. This species is a member of the Custard Apple Family (Annonaceae).

Pawpaw Description and Alternative Names

Tree in forest understory — Pufacz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Description

Pawpaw is a understory tree that grows from 15 to 30 feet tall. The simple, entire leaves range from 10 to 12 inches in length and 4 to 6 inches in width.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known by Common and American Pawpaw, and Wild Banana.

Range and Habitat

Floodplain in Delaware — Author image

Range

This species is found in eastern North America from Texas north to Nebraska and east including Ontario.

Habitat

It is generally found growing in wooded floodplains, slopes, and ravines.

Zebra Swallowtail — Andrew Weitzel from Lancaster, PA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0
Pawpaw fruit — Manuel.conde, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

This tree is the host plant for the Zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus). The larvae of the swallowtails acquire a toxin called acetogenin, which similar to the Monarch butterfly makes them unpalatable to eat.

Other Wildlife Value

This tree is pollinated by beetles and flies. The fruits are edible to humans and taste like bananas.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Asimina, is derived from a Native American name. (Missouri Botanical Garden).

Additional Resources

A book has been written on this fascinating tree called “Pawpaw: In search of America’s Forgotten Fruit” by Andrew Moore. It can be obtained in the shop here.

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