In the Fullerton Arboretum

by Alfredo Chiri

PAWPAW Asimina triloba Annonaceae
Var. Hybrid' donated by: CRFG/ Thompson and planted in 1982 (r.f.-09)
Var. Sunflower' donated by: CRFG and planted in 1998 (r.f.-09)
Var. Wells' donated by: CRFG and planted in 1998 (r.f.-09)

Common names: Indiana Banana, Hoosier Banana, and Poor Man¹s Banana

The pawpaw is the largest tree fruit native to the United States. The pawpaw is a small deciduous tree that grows to 10-25 feet high and about 10-15 feet wide. Pawpaws grow wild in rich soils, where they grow as understory bushes
in hardwood forests in Indiana and northern and eastern states.

The pawpaw trees often exist in clumps or thickets that grow from suckers or from seedlings developing from fruits that dropped to the ground. In sunny locations the trees assume a pyramidal form, losing their leaves during the
fall season.

The flowers are 2 inches across, with dark purple petals. The outer petals are nearly round with spreading inner small sepals. The flowers are protogynous, self incompatible requiring cross-pollination, although some trees may be self compatible. The appearance of the flower with its dark, meat colored petal and the fetid aroma may attract flies and beetles to perform its pollination.

Fruits are yellowish at first, finally brown, 3-7 inches long, and 1-2 inches thick. The fruit is shaped like a short banana, having sweet flesh and large seeds. The fruit falls to the ground when ripe. They may be borne singly or in clusters, which resemble the "hands" of a banana plant. The pulp resembles egg custard in consistency and appearance. It has the same creamy feeling in the mouth and unites the taste of eggs, cream, sugar and spice. It is a natural custard. The shelf life of a tree ripened fruit, at room temperature, is 2 to 3 days, and refrigerated, the fruit can be held up to 3 weeks. 

Within the fruit there are two rows of 10 to 15 large, brown, bean shaped seeds that may be up to 1 inch long. The seeds contain alkaloids in their endosperm, and if chewed, induce vomiting. If swallowed whole, seeds may pass through the digestive tract intact.

The pawpaw plant can be propagated from seed and from chip budding
vegetative propagation. Seeds should be removed from the fruit and cleaned,
then placed in a plastic bag with some damp sphagnum, and should not be
allowed to dry out. The seeds should be stored in the freezer for 60 to 100
days before planting. Seeds should be planted about 1 inch deep into tall
pots accommodating the pawpaw¹s long taproot.

The "Hybrid" pawpaw¹s fruit weight is about 150 grams, having white to
butter-colored pulp, and green skin and few seeds. It ripens in the late
summer. The "Sunflower" pawpaw fruit is larger around 225 grams. It has
butter-colored flesh, and the skin is yellowish. It has few seeds. It ripens
in the late spring. The "Wells" , the largest of the three fruits, grows to
350 grams. It has orange color flesh, and the skin is green. It has 10- 15
seeds and ripens in the middle of summer.