Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

September 13, 2023

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Pawpaw is one of the few members of the mostly tropical custard apple family (Annonaceae) that is native to eastern North America. A small tree, 15-30 feet tall and wide, it grows well in full sun or partial shade and average to wet soil.


Pawpaw has large, oval leaves, 6-12 inches long, Crayola green in summer and a clear yellow in late fall. Unusual-looking purple flowers appear in April or early May and often go un-noticed. They become oblong, yellow green fruits, 3-4 inches long, that turn yellow and darken when ripe in early fall. Fruit pulp is custard-like, reminiscent of banana in taste, prized by both wildlife and humans and can be used to make ice cream and baked goods. In the past, a yellow fabric dye was made from ripened fruit.

Pawpaw often forms colonies and thickets and can spread aggressively, so only plant where it has plenty of room. Otherwise, it is problem-free, a great background for small shrubs and perfect for naturalizing along a woodland edge or on a freshwater shoreline.

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