|Monday Melange: Pawpaw Tree|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 17 September 2012|
The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small tree native to the southeastern United States, its range extending from New York and Michigan south to Florida and across to Texas. Hardy between USDA zones 5 to 9, the pawpaw is a member of the custard apple (Annonaceae) family, a mostly tropical plant family. Pawpaw is somewhat primitive in appearance as it belongs to the Magnoliales, an order of flowering plants that is one of the oldest in existence (magnolias are also in this order but in a different plant family).
The large leaves are between 5 to 11 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. The dark reddish-purple-brown cup-shaped flowers are fragrant and also quite large, blooming in April and May. The edible fruits ripen in the fall and are shaped like short, fat bananas. They are green at first, then turn yellow, and finally brown as they fully ripen. Tasting similar to a banana, they can be eaten raw or made into ice cream.
Pawpaw is a low maintenance tree that grows well in full or partial sun, preferring moist to wet soils. It is considered a small understory tree typically 15 to 30 feet tall, and often forms small colonies in the wild. With its interesting flowers, edible fruits, good fall color (bright yellow), and lack of insect or disease problems, pawpaw is an attractive addition to the landscape, especially along a stream or in a woodland garden.
The pawpaw is listed as endangered in New Jersey and threatened in New York.