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Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Magnoliales: Annonaceae:
Common Name: Information Sheet, Pawpaw

Country: USA
State/District: MD
County: Montgomery
Date (D-M-Y): 4 - 2001

Photographer: E. M. Barrows

Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Collector: not appplicable
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Keywords: A Forest Ecology green fruit information sheet purple flower Pawpaw tree
Additional Information:

Asimina triloba (Linnaeus) = Custard Apple (Central USA), Hoosier Banana (Ohio), Michigan Banana (Michigan), Pawpaw, Poor Man's Banana, West-Virginia Banana (WV).
[French asiminier < Indian assimin; Latin triloba, referring to petals in sets of three (Stevens 1969)] (Sutton & Sutton 1985 plate, 59, 184; Kricher & Morrison 1998 149)

General roles in forests

Pawpaws are autotrophs that generally live in forests, forest edges, some successional areas, and yards. Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living Pawpaw fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.

Specific roles in forests

Pawpaws are understory trees in forests, and are common in some forests where they form Pawpaw patches. Ripe fruits fall from trees and are soon eaten by litter creatures including False Honey Ants, daddylonglogs, sap beetles, slugs, and snails. The molluscs make holes in fruit that enables many other animals to get to the pulp (personal observation). Also, as fruits rot on the ground, they crack, enabling many small animals to obtain pulp. Seeds, are brown, flattened, oval, shiny, up to 1.25 inches long, and many per fruit. Seeds planted in fall will sprout in the following July. Rotting fruits are eaten by many forest organisms. Mammals eat fresh Pawpaw fruit and disperse its seeds in their feces (Anonymous 1993, 5C). The Stinging Rose Caterpillar and the Zebra Swallowtail consume Pawpaw foliage as larvae. Deer and Pigs will not eat Pawpaw leaves (Anonymous 1993, 5C). Many fly species consume Pawpaw nectar. Human uses

We grow Pawpaws as ornamentals, fruit tree, and shade tree. We eat its fresh fruits, sometimes with great relish. We also cook and bake them. Daniel Boone and Mark Twain relished Pawpaws as favorite fruits. I had a professor at the University of Kansas who said that he ate so many delicious pawpaws that he got sick. Gary Grzywacz, of the Clarkston Cafe, MI, puts pawpaws into rice pudding and puree. The Opryland Hotel in Nashville and restaurants in MA and MD serve them. Pawpaws smell and taste like a a creamy mango with a backbite of banana. Many people covet their taste. Some people find them nauseatingly sweet. Slightly rotten flesh is a little bitter. People sell them in the market in Wheeling, WV and in WV roadside stands. People made cloth and cord from their fibrous, tough bark.


Some people are allergic to alkaloids in Pawpaw fruits and should not eat them, or eat them with care (Stevens 1969).


The USDA found that Pawpaws are rich in vitamins A and C, and have more unsaturated fats, proteins, and carbohydrates than apples, grapes, or peaches. A high yield is one bushel per tree. Worldwide interest in Pawpaws is growing (Stelljes 1997, March: 16).

Kentucky State University has a Pawpaw research center. Researchers are studying Pawpaws to see if they contain pesticides, anticancer compounds, and other useful compounds (Anonymous 1993, 5C). The Pawpaw is the only native member of the Annonaceae, a primarily tropical family which includes the Cherimoya, Custard-apple, and Soursop, in the WDC Area. Researchers are developing them for fruit production in Europe and Japan. The PawPaw Foundation, Washington, DC, has three orchards with a total of 2,000 trees.

Native Americans might have brought Pawpaws into southern Michigan where they now grow wild. Paw Paw, Michigan, on the Paw Paw River, is on early Jesuit maps. Someone named Paw Paw, WV (Morgan County) after the Pawpaw. Ray Jones, in CA, publishes a Pawpaw newsletter. Home owners grow Pawpaws in northern CA.

See the Internet for much Pawpaw info including a song: and the Kentucky State University Pawpaw Research Project,


Anonymous (author unknown). 1993. The Prince of the Pawpaw has seen his kingdom grow. Detroit Free Press 5 October: 1C, 5C.

Stelljes, Kathryn Barry. 1997. Pawpaws making a comeback. Agricultural Research March: 16.

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