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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)

Herbarium specimen of pawpaw (Asimina triloba).
Herbarium Specimen — Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)


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 of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba).
Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) in a garden — Pufacz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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

Riverine floodplain forest in Delaware.
Riverine Floodplain Forest — Author Image


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


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

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly on a leaf.
Zebra Swallowtail — Andrew Weitzel from Lancaster, PA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green pawpaw fruit.
Fruit of Pawpaw — 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 McMullen House Garden Shop.

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