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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley
pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for pawpaw is
Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal. There are no accepted subspecies, varieties
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Pawpaw is a native,
deciduous, large shrub or small tree. It exhibits clonal growth, forming
thickets or small colonies. It grows from 20 to 40 feet (6-12 m) tall. There
is usually a single trunk. The bark is thin with shallow, irregular fissures.
Young twigs are hairy. Pawpaw leaves can be up to 1 foot (30 cm) long,
and are odorous when bruised. The fruit is a large berry.
REGENERATION PROCESSES: Vegetative reproduction by root
suckering is the most important method of pawpaw regeneration. Reachers
have reported a relatively high level of genetic variation among populations,
but moderate or no variation within populations. This was attributed to the
formation of clonal thickets and/or inbreeding in small populations. Pawpaw
reproduces sexually, however, the rate of fruit set is very low (0.45 percent)
compared to the number of flowers produced. It is pollinated by flies or
nitidulid beetles. It self-pollinates, but outcrossing is more common.
Germination of pawpaw seeds is slow, probably due to embryo dormancy.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Pawpaw is found in deciduous forests, on
slopes of ravines, along streams, and floodplains. Soils on which it occurs
are usually deep, rich, damp, sandy, or clayey. Common tree associates
include blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra),
honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthus), and coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica).
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Pawpaw is tolerant of shade, but appears to
die out in old-growth forests. In southwestern Pennsylvania, moderate
numbers of pawpaw seedlings and saplings were found in mature second-
growth forests, but none were found in undisturbed, old-growth forests.
Based on a compilation of historical records and current data on its
distribution, researchers have concluded that pawpaw is suited to regimes
of moderate disturbance. Pawpaw is a good competitor when undisturbed
for a period of time, but does not spread into either early - or late -
successional forest types.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Pawpaw flowers emerge with the leaves,
from February to May, depending on latitude. Fruits ripen from July to
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Pawpaw is widely distributed throughout
the eastern United States. Its range extends from western New York west
across southwestern Ontario to Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa; south to eastern
Nebraska, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas; east to the Appalachian
Mountains and the Florida panhandle.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Pawpaws grow in
low woods, typically in sandy areas near water. They have a tendency to be
close to the edges of forests and live in clusters, similar to a shrub-like envir-
onment. Pawpaws can be found as an understory tree growing with maples
(Acer spp.), oaks (Quercus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), as
well as with sassafras, persimmon, sweetgum, and green ash.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Native pawpaw trees are the larval host
plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). Pawpaw
fruits are consumed by many birds and mammals, including raccoons, gray
foxes, opossums, squirrels, and black bears. White-tailed deer browse paw-
paw; beavers consume the bark.
Pawpaw wood is light, soft, coarse-grained, and weak. It is not of economic
Pawpaw is an excellent food source rich in most vitamins, minerals, amino
acids, and food energy value. Pawpaw fruits are best eaten fresh when
fully ripe. This highly aromatic, climacteric fruit has a ripe taste that re-
sembles a creamy mixture of banana, mango, and pineapple and is eaten
in-hand as fresh fruit or processed into desserts. The intense tropical
flavor and aroma may also be useful for developing processed food pro-
ducts (blended fruit drinks, baby food, ice creams, etc.). The flesh purees
easily and freezes nicely. Pawpaws easily substitute in equal part for
banana in most recipes. Twigs are a source of annonaceous acetogenins
which are being used in the development of anti-cancer drugs and botan-
ical pesticides. Pawpaw plants produce annonaceous acetogenins in leaf,
bark and twig tissues, that possess both highly anti-tumor and pesticidal
properties. The seeds contain an alkaloid, asiminine, which is reported to
have emetic properties.
Pawpaw is planted for fruit production and as an ornamental.