Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)

paw paw tree 1

This tree has alternate names such as False Banana, Paw Paw Apple, Custard Banana and Banana tree.

paw paw tree 2

The fruit,which is the largest edible fruit native to America, is high in amino acids.  The Cherokee would use the fruit as food either eaten fresh or dried and eaten on hunting trips.   The inner bark was used to make ropes, fishing nets, mats and  for stringing fish.   A yellow dye was made fro the pulp of the  ripened fruit.  The flavor of the Pawpaw resembles bananas.   The thin skins have a custard like pulp that tastes like papaya.

paw paw tree 3

The larvae of the zebra swallowtail butterfly feed exclusively on the tender leaves.  Chemicals in the Paw Paw leaves provide protection throughout the butterfly’s life making them unpalatable to birds and other predators.

The flowers are produced in early spring at the same time or slightly before new leaves appear and have a faint yeasty smell.  The flowers are dark purple.   My  Paw Paw tree featured in these photos is blooming now-April 1st.  The flowers are insect pollinated and produce an odor similar to rotting meat in order to attract blowflies or carrion beetles for cross pollination.

The leaves are coated with whitish hairs on the upper surface with rusty colored hairs on the underside.  The leaves are aromatic and when crushed smell like bell peppers.  The tree can grow from 15 to 30 feet tall with a similar spread.  They bloom during April  and May and will take full sun to part shade.  They fruit better with more sun.

I recommend using the Paw Paw in your garden for it’s beauty, fruit, and benefit to wildlife.

 

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