Whether planted in full sun or part shade, the pawpaw tree, native to the Midwest, works well as a specimen, or can be useful as a screen. Nodding, dark purple flowers in the spring, elongated edible fruit in the summer, and a yellow to yellow-green fall color add to the appeal of this small understory tree. Pawpaws may be difficult to find in nurseries. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
- Residential and parks,
- Under utility lines
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding
- Excessive sucker growth,
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Edible fruit,
- Showy fruit,
- Showy flowers,
- Attractive bark
Seasons of Interest:
- mid spring,
- late spring,
- late summer,
- early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Game mammals,
- Small mammals
Tree & Plant Care
Pawpaw is a small native understory tree.
It grows in low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines and along streams.
Its spreading habit forms colonies or thickets.
Disease, pests and problems
No serious disease or insect problems.
Sensitive to drought.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Resistant to deer browse.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Common in woodlands and low, wet areas.
Bark color and texture
Bark is gray and relatively smooth.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; 12 inches long; leaves resemble magnolia leaves.
Fall color is yellow to yellow-green.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Cup-shaped, 6-petaled, nodding purple flowers appear in spring.
Odor similar to fermented grapes.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Edible, cylindrical, 6 inch long, yellowish green fruits which mature in early autumn.
Flavor and flesh consistency of the fruit resembles that of bananas.
Best fruit production occurs when two trees are growing near one another.
Cultivars and their differences
Mango pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Mango'): Produces large, flavorful fruit with orange-yellow flesh. A late-ripening cultivar. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.
NC-1 pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'NC-1'): Produces large fruit with fewer seeds and thinner skin. An early-ripening cultivar. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.
Pennsylvania Golden pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Pennsylvania Golden'): Very sweet fruit; a very early-ripening cultivar. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.
Prolific pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Prolific'): Produces large crop at an early age. An early-ripening cultivar. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.
Overleese pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Overleese'): Large fruit with few seeds. An early-ripening cultivar. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.
Sunflower pawpaw (Asimina triloba 'Sunflower'): Produces large fruit with fewer seeds. Ripens later than other cultivars. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.