I. General Information
- Common name: Pawpaw, Common pawpaw, American Custard Apple, Indiana Banana, Prairie banana, Poor man’s banana, Hoosier banana,
- Scientific name/Botanical name: Asimina triloba
- Family name: Annonaceae (order Magnoliales)
- Origin: North America
- Growing Zones: 4-8
- Mature Height: 15-30′
- Mature Width: 15-30′
- Sunlight: Full sun
- Leaf: 12″ long. If the leaves, are torn, they will smell bad
- Bloom: Shade of dark reddish-brown and start blooming before the leaves unfurl. The blossoms can smell horrible
- Fruit: Greenish-blackish fruit. Tastes like a combination of a banana, an apricot and a mango
The pawpaw is the largest fruit-bearing tree species native to North America. Deciduous, open shrub or small tree. H and W 12-25ft (4-8m). Large, oval, mid-green leaves emerge in late spring or early summer, just after, or at the same time as, 6-petaled, purplishbrown flowers. Edible fruits are small, globular and pale green. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Z6-8 H8-6.
IV. Site, Soils, and Plant Habit
Although the pawpaw is capable of fruiting in the shade, it performs best on sites with full-sun exposure, but with some protection from wind (because of its large leaves). Seedlings, however, will not survive under full sun conditions because the young shoot is extremely sensitive to sunlight. Shading for the first year, and sometimes the second, is usually required. It is for this reason that in the wild pawpaws are primarily an understory tree.
Pawpaws grow best in slightly acid (pH 5.5-7.0), deep, fertile, and well-drained soils. Good drainage is essential to success. Pawpaws will grow in heavy soils but will not survive water-logged conditions. In habit the tree is small, seldom taller than 25 feet (7.5m). Grown in full sun, the pawpaw tree develops a pyramidal shape, with dense, drooping foliage down to ground level. In the shade it has a more open branching habit, with few lower limbs and horizontally held leaves.
V. Propagation by Seed
Pawpaw seed is slow to germinate, but germination is not difficult if certain precautions are followed. Do not allow the seed to dry out, because this eventually destroys the immature dormant embryo. To break dormancy, the seed must receive a period of cold temperatures (termed “stratification”) lasting
90 to 120 days.
Stratification may be accomplished by sowing the seed outdoors in the garden bed in the fall and letting the seed overwinter there; the seed will germinate the following year in late July or August. Or the seed may be stratified in the refrigerator at 32-40°F (0-5°C).
The seed should be stored in plastic bags containing slightly moistened sphagnum moss to keep the seed moist and to suppress fungal/ bacterial growth. After 90-120 days, the seed should be removed from the refrigerator and sown in a well aerated soil mix of pH 5.5-7.0 with an optimum temperature of 75-85°F (25-30°C). On average the root will emerge from the seed coat after 18 to 24 days, develop into a taproot about 10 inches (32cm) long, and then send up a shoot after 50-60 days. Germination is “hypogeal,” meaning that the shoot emerges without cotyledons.