The Pawpaw Tree – A Guide To America’s Native Tropical Fruit

The Pawpaw Tree is a deciduous fruit bearing tree native to North America. Scientifically known as Asimina triloba, it has the most northern native range of all tropical fruit in the world, growing well into Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa. It grows up to 24″ per year in full sun and well draining soil – but can survive in all but the heaviest shade.

The Pawpaw is the fruit born of the Pawpaw tree, and is the northern most member of the tropical fruit Annonaceae family. Beloved by humans and animals alike, the taste is like a cross between a banana and mango. And the texture is similar to custard or mushy-banana. Ripening in late Summer, they have a short shelf life once fallen from the tree.

I’ve been fascinated with Pawpaws ever since I learned of them shortly after relocating to Pennsylvania from the Midwest. I taught myself how to identify and locate trees in the wild, eat and preserve the fruit, properly treat and germinate the seeds, and finally grow the tree. Consider this article as a guide to all things Pawpaw, the tree, fruit, and the seed!

In this article:

What is a Pawpaw Tree?

A Pawpaw tree is a an understory tree native to North America that grows to about 15-30′ tall (4.5m – 9 m) at full maturity by 20′-30′ (6m-10 m) spread. Scientifically known as Asimina triloba and producing sweet fruit, it prefers rich soil, wet to medium moisture and is adaptable in that it can grow in full sun to full shade.[1][2][3][4][5]

And, as you could guess, the Pawpaw tree is the tree that bears the Pawpaw fruit. They bloom dark maroon flowers in Spring. Although these flowers are absolutely gorgeous when examined up close, there are not enough of them to make the tree showy. The tree can grow in nearly full shade, although the growth rate will be very slow and it will not bear as much fruit due to a lack of sunlight.

What is a Pawpaw

The Pawpaw is a tropical fruit that is native to North America. Typically 3-6″ long and sometimes peanut or kidney shaped, having a sweet, yet custard like flavor. If allowed to ripen, they have the consistency of a mushy banana. [3][4]

Pawpaws fruits are one of America’s best kept secrets. It is a delicious, nutritious fruit that unfortunately has a very short shelf life, limiting it’s commercial value. When grown in full sun, the fruit can reach 4-6″ long by 3-4″ diameter and are either round-oblong spheres or peanut/kidney shaped. If grown in shade, they will be much smaller – sometimes as small as a golf ball.

Despite their short shelf-life, if harvested right Pawpaws can be enjoyed fresh for a month or so. And if the pulp is removed from the skin, they can be frozen…although some of the flavor is definitely lost. But, half the fun is finding them in the wild. It is sort of like an Easter Egg hunt for adults!

A massive Pawpaw tree

The modern discovery of Pawpaws is often credited to the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto or the Captain John Smith Expedition. But Native Americans had been using Pawpaws in cakes, loaves of bread, and sauces for thousands of years. [4]

My daughter and I love them, harvesting them each year from the wild. And we each have one at the end of breakfast & dinner (sort of like a desert). They are packed with vitamin C and other nutrients, and we are able to enjoy them for 2-4 weeks depending on the harvest that year.

Pawpaw shelf life

Pawpaws will only lasts a few days before spoiling if fallen naturally from a tree. If picked while slightly soft it can last for a couple weeks while it ripens in the refrigerator.

But this short shelf life prevents the fruit from being transported long distances or available in grocery stores. In season, you can find them for sale in certain farmers markets (not cheap), or the York County Pawpaw festival where one can sample different varieties. For practical purposes though, one must either have a Pawpaw Patch or know someone who can supply them with the fruit.

Pawpaw Reference Table

Scientific NameAsimina triloba
Common NamePawpaw, Pawpaw Tree, Appalachian Banana, Poor Man’s Banana
Native RangeEastern United States, USDA Zone 5-9
Scientific NameAsimina triloba
Height / Spacing15-30′ (5 m – 10 m) / 10-20′ (5 – 10 m)
Light ConditionsFull Sun to Full Shade
Soil TypeSandy, Loam, Humus
MoistureWet to medium – not drought tolerant
Harvest TimeLate Summer, Autumn
Sources [1][2][3][5]

Native Range of Pawpaw Tree

The native range of the Pawpaw Tree is the Eastern North America from East Texas to South Carolina, North to Pennsylvania, Michigan, with isolated pockets in Southern Ontario Canada, New York, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Click to see full size. Sources [1][2][3][5]

Pawpaw Tree identification and characteristics

Pawpaw trees have slim trunks (10-30′ tall) with fairly smooth bark that is pock-marked. Large clusters of alternate leaves up to 12″ long by 5″ wide with smooth margins will line branches and terminate at the end. The trunks are quite flexible, and easy to bend as they don’t get that large. They often form colonies. via rhizome suckers. [2][3][5]

Simple ID Guide

Click here for pdf of Pawpaw ID Guide

When grown in full sun there will be frequent branching, while in shade there will be few (if any) branches.

This is a young Pawpaw tree I planted in my yard about 5 years ago. It has grown from 6″ to roughly 7-8′ tall. Note the large leaves.

Pawpaw bark & trunk identification

Bark of the Pawpaw is light gray, speckled, and relatively smooth but with a slight roughness. The roughness on the bark is caused by air pockets when the bark is young. When you combine the bark texture with the tree size and shape, you can have a good idea as to whether it is a Pawpaw tree. [2][3][5]

Pawpaw tree bark

The trunk of the Pawpaw will be very small diameter, typically between 2-6″. I’ve never come across a tree with a trunk larger than 8″ diameter. These are not trees grown for lumber!

Pawpaw leaf identification

Pawpaw leaves form in alternate clusters and are extremely, up to 12″ long (30 cm) by 4″ wide (10 cm). They are lanceolate to obovate shaped and alternate along a trunk with smooth margins and veined. [2][3][5]

The giant leaf of the Pawpaw

Inspect these leaves closely, as Pawpaw leaves will have smooth edges. This is a key distinct difference from Shagbark Hickory leaf which has a sawtooth edge.

Leaves of the Pawpaw tree will be extremely large relative to almost all trees in Eastern North America. The leaf clusters of a Pawpaw have a strong resemblance to Shagbark Hickory leaves.

What do Pawpaw leaves smell like?

Pawpaw leaves emit a strong aroma that can smell like freshly diced bell pepper or motor oil. I personally feel they smell most like diced bell pepper. But this aroma keeps herbivories away. They also contain a natural insecticide [6][7], which helps keep this tree relatively free of insect damage.

Pawpaw Flower

The flowers of the Pawpaw Tree are 1-1/2″ diameter, maroon or reddish-purple in color with three outer sepals (that resemble petals) and then two sets of three inner petals. The interior will be yellow or green cone with many ovaries, styles, and stamens. Blooming occurs in Spring and lasts roughly one month. [2][3][5]

Individually a Pawpaw flower is quite beautiful. But, the flowers are not large or numerous enough to give the tree a showy appearance. Also due to Pawpaw trees typically occurring in the woods, their dark colored flowers don’t contrast that much with surrounding tree trunks.

Regardless of the large number of flowers, most trees in the wild will bear little fruit. This has been documented by research, which found that less than 1% of flowers developed actual fruit in the wild [8]. The researchers theorized that this low flower-to-fruit ratio for Pawpaws was due to lack of pollination, sunlight. Further compounding the problem is that there must be two genetically different Pawpaw trees present, as they cannot self pollinate.

Hand pollinating Pawpaw flowers

If one is inclined, you can hand pollinate Pawpaw flowers. First, you must be sure that you have two genetically different trees available. Then, using a q-tip or cotton swab rub the green cone of a Pawpaw flower, and then go rub the cone of another flower on a genetically different tree.

Research found that the success of hand pollinating flowers was much higher than open pollinated flowers. Hand pollinated flowers had a 5-20% success rate of producing fruit, while open pollinated flowers only produced fruit at a rate of approximately 1%. [8]

Pawpaw fruit

Pawpaw fruits are typically 2-6″ long, and 2-4″ diameter. They will contain numerous seeds inside (6-20). Each Pawpaw fruit will be genetically unique relative to the parent tree.

The Pawpaw fruit tastes similar to a banana, papaya, and has a hint of mango. But, the flavor is usually either loved or despised! For instance, while my daughter and I love Pawpaws, my wife and son are not fans.

The low number of Pawpaw fruit per tree is usually due to several key factors:

  • Flies are the primary pollinators, and can be unreliable [6][7][9]
  • Flowers bloom early in Spring, and there are fewer pollinators
  • Trees cannot self pollinate, and there are male/female flowers

Pawpaw Tree root system

The root system of Pawpaw trees have a tap-root and also produce underground, horizontal runners that sprout new trees.[2] These new trees are clonal copies of the parent, and cannot be used for cross pollination.

Sometimes one will encounter a large number of Pawpaw trees in the woods, and they won’t have any fruit on them. It is most likely that all of the trees are clonal copies of the oldest one, and cross pollination is not possible.

Natural Habitat of Pawpaw trees

Pawpaws are understory trees. Meaning that they naturally grow beneath the Appalachian forest canopy in full shade to partial sun. However, if one is inclined, Pawpaw Trees can be grown in an orchard tree in full sun.

But you will naturally find these in the Appalachian Mountains throughout Eastern North America. From Pennsylvania to Georgia to Indiana and Ohio [3][5][10]. Now, trees are highly adaptable, and although they are often growing near water, they can grow in drier areas if there is many large hardwoods surrounding it to provide shade.

Growth rate of Pawpaw tree

The growth rate of Pawpaw trees in optimum conditions it can grow up to 2′ per year. In shadier locations the growth may only be 6″-1′ per year.[4] And note that the first couple of years of it’s life is devoted to making a taproot. So if grown from seed, expect it to be slow growing for the first two years.

Video guide

Below is a video we created to show you all there is to know about the Pawpaw tree. I hope you enjoy it!

Grow and Care for Pawpaw Trees

Sunlight Requirements

In the wild Pawpaws grow in partial shade to nearly full-shade. They can grow in full sun in orchards though. More sun will mean larger fruit, but one must take care to ensure the tree doesn’t dry out. [2]

I have several growing at my home, and they are all in either partial shade or full sun in the morning, and shaded in the afternoon.

Soil Requirements

For soil, Pawpaws prefer loamy soils with plenty of organic matter (think of the forest floor). They can grow in sandy loam or clay loam, provided that it drains well. [3][5]

Moisture Requirements

For moisture, Pawpaws prefer moist to medium-moist soil.[2]


Pawpaws typically will not require any maintenance. Just mowing of unwanted suckers from the mother tree.


As a general rule Pawpaws are disease free. However, it is possible for them to develop the fungus ‘Coal Spot’, Nectria cinnabarina.[3] This fungus can be managed if caught early by pruning of infected limbs. Other pathogens that can effect Pawpaw (but generally not fatal) is the canker Valsa ambiens.

How to find Pawpaw trees in the wild

The key steps to locating Pawpaw trees in the wild are as follows:

  1. Make sure you are located in the native range
  2. Look in areas with favorable growing conditions for Pawpaws, which is near moisture and partial shade
  3. Try to look for companion trees such as Hickory, Walnut, Sycamore…
  4. Scan the forest for large-leaved trees with thin trunks that are only 10-30′ tall

How to spot Pawpaws from a distance

Spotting Pawpaws from a distance is a valuable skill in the hunt for them, as it will allow you to cover much more ground scanning for potential Pawpaw trees. And how do you do this? Well it is simple. You look for the form.

The form of a Pawpaw tree in the woods

The easiest way to identify Pawpaw trees in the wild from a distance, is to scan the forest and look for trees with very large leaves and skinny trunks relative to the surrounding trees/vegetation. Leaves of Pawpaw trees are 3-5 times larger than most other deciduous leaves, and often stand out in comparison to other trees. That is how I can spot them from longer distances in the forest or even just driving around.

Click here for pdf of Pawpaw Spotting Guide

Finding the right growing conditions for Pawpaws.

Pawpaws are understory trees, meaning they are under the canopy of bigger trees (hickory, oak). Typically you will find them growing in partial sun to nearly full-shade. Pawpaws prefer moist to medium moist soil.

How to Spot a Pawpaw tree from a distance

To spot Pawpaws from a distance, look for large-leaved trees with small diameter trunks. If you see a smaller tree with large leaves, go inspect the leaves and bark more closely. If vegetation is thick, sometimes you can just come across the young saplings or clonal offests on the ground (image below). The leaves will be the same (large, alternating, spearhead shaped with smooth edges).

These young saplings surround the mother tree

Look for other trees that like the same conditions to Find Pawpaws

I mean this wholeheartedly. If you can find Hickories, Black Walnut, White Oak or Red Oak – you can find Pawpaw Trees. Pawpaw will grow in similar conditions as Hickory trees. They also have similar leaf structure and size (but Pawpaw is much larger).

If you train your eyes to spot Hickory leaf structure, you will quickly find Pawpaw trees.

Pawpaw leaf vs Hickory Leaf – Don’t confuse them!

Young Shagbark Hickory trees resemble Pawpaw trees. The bark of a young Shagbark Hickory isn’t as “shaggy” as an older tree. So, even I may get them confused – until I look at the leaves! Use the leaves to make sure of your identification!

Click on image to view full size. Click here for pdf of all Pawpaw lookalikes

The key to differentiating Pawpaw leaves from Hickory Leaves is the edge of the leaf, and the arrangement The edge of the Pawpaw leaf is smooth, while Hickory is ‘saw-tooth’.

Pawpaw leaf vs Southern Magnolia Leaf

Leaves of the Southern Magnolia tree can resemble Pawpaw leaves. They both have an alternate leaf structure. But – Southern Magnolia leaves are more elliptic in shape, and usually smaller at 5-8″ long by 2-3″ wide. Furthermore, their texture is thick and leathery, as well as their surface having a somewhat shiny appearance.

Click to view full size. Click here for pdf of all Pawpaw lookalikes. Credit magnolia leaf to Parée @ Flickr. CC2.0

Pawpaw leaf vs White Ash leaf

Although mature White Ash trees are nearly extinct, there are young saplings sprouting up all the time. And their leaves can somewhat resemble a paw paw leaf. But- White Ash tree leaves are compound instead of simple with an opposite structure, and their leaflets are smaller at 2-5″ long and more elliptic in shape.

Click on image to view full size. Click here for pdf of all Pawpaw lookalikes

Pawpaw vs Spicebush

In some circumstances a male Spicebush could be mistaken for a Pawpaw. This is primarily due to the leaves, as they have a similar shape, smooth margins, and alternate structure. But that is where the similarities end.

The difference between Spicebush and Pawpaw leaves are that Spicebush leaves are more elliptic, smaller, and will emit a spicy (allspice-like) aroma when crushed.

Click on image for full size. Click here for pdf of all Pawpaw lookalikes

When to harvest Pawpaws

Pawpaws will naturally ripen on the tree in late summer to early Fall, beginning when night time temperatures dip into the 60’s. I’m in zone 6, and will start harvesting Pawpaws usually in mid-September. If you notice any Pawpaws on the ground, then they should be pretty ripe as this indicates they are naturally falling.

When is a Pawpaw Ripe?

A Pawpaw is ripe and ready when it is slightly soft to the touch. If you give a gentle squeeze, and the Pawpaw feels like a tennis ball, it isn’t ready. If the Pawpaw feels like a firm foam ball, then it is ripe enough.

This small pawpaw needs a couple of weeks to ripen up! I Picked it way to early.
This pawpaw has ripened up on a kitchen counter for a week. It is about peak ripeness

You want your Pawpaw to get slightly deformed when you squeeze it, similar to a ripe pear or peach. It is the same test, only a different variety of fruit!

How to ripen Pawpaw fruit

Pawpaws will ripen up on their own. Just leave them on a sunny window sill and check them daily. After a few days to a week they should be ripe.

The exposure to sun and room temperatures will soften the fruit up in no time.

How to harvest Pawpaws from a tree

The easiest way to harvest Pawpaws from a tree is to gently shake it. Ripe Pawpaws will easily fall from the tree when they are ripe. Do not violently shake the tree as this can cause unripe fruit to fall.

How long do Pawpaws last?

Pawpaws will only last for about a week at room temperature. So, once they fall off the tree they must be eaten relatively quickly. However, you can pick Pawpaws a week or two before they are ripe. And these Pawpaws can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks and still taste good. [4][11]

In my experience, if you pick a Pawpaw too early, it will never fully ripen, and remain hard/firm. So, avoid doing this, and only pick Pawpaws once they start to fall naturally from the tree.

After 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator, the skin may turn black. But don’t throw it out! It may still be quite sweet. It will just be a bit messy to eat, but I have eaten ‘black’ pawpaws and they tasted great.

How to eat Pawpaws

There are many ways to eat pawpaws. But you generally just need to cut it in half, perpendicular to the long axis. You can then scoop out the flesh with a spoon and just spit the seeds out. This is by far the easiest way to eat a Pawpaw.

Spooning out the pawpaw, spitting out the seeds

If you wish to store Pawpaw flesh in the freezer, you can cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Take care to separate the seeds, as they are quite toxic. The mushy Pawpaw pulp can be stored in zip-lock bags in the freezer.

Pawpaws and toxicity

The bark, leaves, and seeds of Pawpaws contain cytotoxic compounds. It has also been found that the flesh contains annonacin, which is toxic to cortical neurons. This same compound is found in the fruit and leaves of the Soursop apple in Guadeloupe, which has been linked to atypical Parkinson’s disease. These papers that found the compound in the Pawpaw recommend further study to determine the full effect of annonacin in Pawpaw, as thus far there has not been any conclusive link. [12][13][14][15]

I did locate a single case of possible problems from prolonged Pawpaw consumption. The case was of an 80 year old man who had been eating roughly 30 lb of pawpaw (his wife’s estimate) throughout the year (frozen pulp), as his family owned an orchard. He exhibited various atypical palsy symptoms of speech impediment.[16]

Given the history of Pawpaw consumption, which spans thousands of years for Native Americans [4], and hundreds of years since colonists arrived, I’m inclined to think that moderate consumption of the fruit when in season is harmless. If there was an acute link to diseases from consuming Pawpaws, we would have likely seen it by now.

Historically prolonged or year-round consumption of Pawpaw fruit was not possible as the fruits have a short shelf life. Given that we can now freeze the pulp, it is possible to consume Pawpaw daily all year if one is inclined. Since there is no history of that occurring in mankind, caution could be the prudent course of action. So, don’t eat frozen Pawpaw pulp throughout out the year.

How to harvest & sow Pawpaw seeds

What Pawpaw seeds look like

Pawpaw seeds resemble pieces of the chewing gum Chiclets, only they are black. They are oval/rectangular discs that are about the size of a pinky finger nail.

Cleaning Pawpaw seeds

Rinse your pawpaw seeds in water and remove any bits of the pawpaw fruit. Then, soak your seeds in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for about 5 minutes. This will sterilize and kill any mold or fungus organisms that may be living on the seed. Finally, rinse several times with distilled water.

Storing Pawpaw seeds

If pawpaw seeds dry out they will not be viable. Desmond Layne from the University of Kentucky reports that Pawpaw seeds can be stored in a sealed container in a refrigerator for several years without losing much viability.[10]

Pawpaw seeds after separating and cleaning

But, even if you plant on planting your Pawpaw seeds immediately for germination the following Spring, you should keep them in a moist towel in the fridge until you are ready to plant! If Pawpaw seeds dry out the will become non-viable and will not germinate.

How to grow Pawpaw Trees from seed

Breaking Pawpaw seed dormancy – cold stratification

Pawpaw seeds have a dormancy mechanism preventing them from germinating prematurely. So, in order to get Pawpaw seeds to germinate they must undergo approximately 100 days of cold stratification.[5][10][17] In order to achieve this you can either cold stratify the seeds in the refrigerator in a mixture of sand or moist paper towels, or you can Winter Sow the seeds.

Cold stratifying Pawpaw seeds in the refrigerator

For cold stratification of Pawpaw seeds, you must store them in either a mixture of moist sand in a bag, or a couple of large paper towels that are thoroughly moistened. This process is known as cold stratification, and we have a detailed step by step guide how to do it.

Winter-Sowing Pawpaw seeds

For Winter Sowing Pawpaw seeds, you must take care that the container does not freeze for prolonged periods of time. This is based on personal experience.

  • The first year I Winter Sowed Pawpaw Seeds I left the containers outside. It was a mild Winter and although the containers did freeze periodically, I managed roughly 50% germination.
  • The second year I planted more Pawpaw seeds I left the containers outside. It was a harsh winter and the container froze for prolonged periods of time (weeks). I did not get a single seed to germinate that season.
  • The 3rd year I grew Pawpaw seeds I learned my lesson and kept my containers in an unheated garage during the coldest parts of Winter, not taking them outside until late February / early March (zone 6). I am writing this article on 17JUL2023 and as of now I have thirty-two of thrity-six seeds germinated (88.9%), and they are still popping up daily.

How to sow pawpaw seeds

  1. To sow Pawpaw seeds, begin by soaking the seeds in tap water for 24 hours.
  2. Then, winter sow the seed, or cold stratify the seed for 90 days.
    • During the coldest parts of Winter, you should overwinter the pots in an unheated garage or shed. This is important! If the Pawpaw seeds freeze completely solid for an extended period of time they will die.
  3. Plant pawpaw seeds 1″ deep (2.5 cm).
  4. Germination could take months after temperatures warm up, so don’t give up and be patient!
    • For reference, I’m in zone 6 in Southern Pennsylvania, and I have never had a Pawpaw germinate before July.

How long does it take for Pawpaw seeds to germinate?

Pawpaw seeds will germinate about 60 to 90 days AFTER winter-sowing or cold stratifying. So, don’t expect seeds to germinate in Spring. Pawpaw seeds typically germinate in mid-Summer.[5] So, after a cold treatment it will take months of warm temperatures and moist soil for the seeds to sprout.

The first time I germinated and grew Pawpaw trees from seed it took a really long time to germinate, which I grew to learn is normal.

Pawpaw seedling. This is about 7 days after germinating in July.
My 2023 Pawpaw seedlings. 34 out of 36 Pawpaw seeds germinated (3 seeds per pot).

Can you propagate pawpaw trees by grafting or cuttings?

Grafting pawpaw trees has been quite difficult. University of Kentucky made a significant attempt and only had about 40%-75% survival rate depending on the variety [18]. Other researchers have found that it is primarily successful using the chip budding method.[5][17]

So, it is possible to graft, but it is not easy and it should be done in the young seedling stage. The safest way to get a grafted Pawpaw is to purchase it!

Varieties of Pawpaw Trees

Through selective breeding and grafting, numerous Pawpaw varieties have been developed. The fruit born of these specialty trees is generally much larger diameter with fewer seeds, making it easier to eat.[19] Again, these are often available from specialty nurseries (you can find a map of native nurseries here).

But some of the more popular varieties are the following:

  • Allegheny
  • NC1
  • Rappahannock
  • Susquehanna
  • Wabash

Where to Buy Pawpaw Trees / Seeds

One important point you should know about before purchasing Pawpaw trees – you need to have more than one! Pawpaw trees will not self pollinate. So, if you want to grow some fruit you need at least two trees!

List of native plant nurseries in United States / Canada

Getting Pawpaw seeds

It is possible to buy pawpaw seeds online. People have Etsy shops, and certain companies will sell them. But, you are better off finding an actual pawpaw and getting seeds from the fruit directly. This is just because storage of the pawpaw seeds is so precarious!

Pawpaws need a long cold stratification period. It is best to sow seeds right after eating a pawpaw, or storing them via cold/moist stratification in the refrigerator until you are ready to winter sow.

Plant the seeds about 1″ deep in large pots. Do so by January, as many references state that Pawpaws need 90-120 days of cold stratification.

Buying pawpaw trees online

I have some direct experience with purchasing Pawpaw trees online though, and am happy to share it with you.

It is true that there are some companies and nurseries that sell pawpaw trees, and you can easily buy those. But I opted for purchasing bare root Pawpaw trees. This was quite economical, and both trees survived.

I bought two 6″ bare root pawpaw trees from Cold Stream Farm in 2017, as well as some other trees. My experience was great, as the quality of all trees I purchased from them were excellent. Bare root trees are very low cost compared to container trees. You need to order during the Autumn or Winter, and they ship them the following Spring once the ground has thawed.

Uses of Pawpaw Trees


Pawpaw flowers are pollinated by pollinating flies, specifically blow flies and flesh flies. These are not reliable pollinators, and thus it can result that there is little fruit.

In addition to flies, the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly will lay eggs on Pawpaw leaves. The snout moth Omphalocera cariosa and it’s wood-boring larva are hosted, as are the Pink-spotted Hawkmoth, and Pawpaw Sphinx. [3]

Deer and rabbits

Pawpaws are generally left alone by deer and rabbits. However bucks (male deer) may damage Pawpaw trunks by rubbing their antlers on them during the rut. Because of that threat I use 4′ tall plastic tree shelters.

Landscaping uses

Pawpaw trees can be used in landscaping as an ornamental tree. In particular, the special varieties sold at specialty nurseries can often be planted in full sun directly. They are not too large, but can make for a nice shape and lovely foliage throughout the Summer and into Fall.

The key factor for starting a Pawpaw tree in a residential landscape, or an area that gets 100% full sun, you need to give it a bit of protection. One method that is simple and effective is to use a tomato cage with some shade cloth on top. This can help shade the seedling during the hottest overhead sunlight. [20]


The most obvious use of Pawpaw Trees is for food! The fruits are delicious when in season. And they can be processed and frozen for later use. Although I must say that the flavor does wane a bit. But one can store them in zip-lock bags in a freezer for an extended period of time.

I usually save a few zip-lock bags full of Pawpaw pulp for later use in the year. Thawed Pawpaw makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes!

Pancake topped with Pawpaw that I froze from the previous year.


Wood from a Pawpaw Tree is not valuable. The trunk rarely grows beyond 6″ diameter and the wood is not very hard. It could make for a good bendable trellis as it is quite flexible, but you won’t be making fenceposts out of the trunks as it isn’t very rot resistant.

Native American uses of Pawpaw

The Native American Tribes used Pawpaws for food, as one would expect. They often either dried or baked pawpaw into breads, corn cakes, and made sauces.[4] Additionally they used flexible branches and trunks for cordage. [21]

Final thoughts

Pawpaw fruits and trees are interesting pieces of North American ecology, providing habitat for various pollinators to lay their eggs, offering pollen for some oft-overlooked species of pollinators, and provides a delicious unique nourishing fruit for deer, squirrels, mice, and people too!

The Pawpaw tree is a unique piece of American history that you can enjoy today. Starting with the Native Americans thousands of years ago right on up through the numerous Pawpaw festivals around the country, this delicious fruit has been enjoyed by all people who taste it.

A fun fruit to forage for, hunting Pawpaws gets people outdoors exploring the forests and making memories. I know my family has made plenty going to look for them in our various haunts. The excitement you hear in a child’s voice when they collect a “reallllly big one” to put in the basket makes the whole trip worth it.

Find more native trees here….


[1] – Asimina triloba. USDA NRCS. Accessed 01DEC2019

[2] – Immel, Diana Ll, Anderson, M. Kat. PAWPAW Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal. USDA NRCS Plant Guide. 21May2001.
Accessed 12DEC2019.

[3] – Mitchell, Richard S., Beal, Ernest O. Magnoliaceae through Ceratophyllaceae of New York State. Albany, N.Y. : University of the State of New York, State Education Dept., 1979 pp62

[4] – Moore, Andrew. Pawpaw : in search of America’s forgotten fruit, 2015, pp336.

[5] – U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 1948. Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal, pawpaw, p. 92. In: Woody plant seed manual. U.S. Dept. Agr., Washington, D.C., Misc. Publ. 654. Accessed 17JUL2023.

[6] – Isman M.B., Seffrin R. (2014) Natural Insecticides from the Annonaceae: A Unique Example for Developing Biopesticides. In: Singh D. (eds) Advances in Plant Biopesticides. Springer, New Delhi.

[7] – Lewis, Mark A., et al. “Inhibition of respiration at site I by asimicin, an insecticidal acetogenin of the pawpaw, Asimina triloba (Annonaceae).” Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology 45.1 (1993): 15-23.

[8] – Mary F. Willson and Douglas W. Schemske. Pollinator Limitation, Fruit Production, and Floral Display in Pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Vol. 107, No. 3 (Jul. – Sep., 1980), pp. 401-408.

[9] – Losada, J.M., Hormaza, J.I. and Lora, J. (2017), Pollen–pistil interaction in pawpaw (Asimina triloba), the northernmost species of the mainly tropical family Annonaceae. American Journal of Botany, 104: 1891-1903.

[10] – Desmond R. Layne. The Pawpaw [Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal]: A New Fruit Crop for Kentucky and the United States. HORTSCIENCE, VOL. 31(5), SEPTEMBER 1996. Retrieved 17JAN2021

[11] – Koslanund, R., Archbold, D. D., & Pomper, K. W. (2005). Pawpaw [Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal] Fruit Ripening. I. Ethylene Biosynthesis and Production, Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science jashs, 130(4), 638-642. Retrieved Jan 17, 2021, from

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[13] – Potts, Lisa F., et al. “Annonacin in Asimina triloba fruit: Implication for neurotoxicity.” Neurotoxicology 33.1 (2012): 53-58.

[14] – Pomper, Kirk W., et al. “Identification of annonaceous acetogenins in the ripe fruit of the North American pawpaw (Asimina triloba).” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 57.18 (2009): 8339-8343.

[15] – Caparros‐Lefebvre, Dominique, et al. “Guadeloupean parkinsonism: a cluster of progressive supranuclear palsy‐like tauopathy.” Brain 125.4 (2002): 801-811.

[16] – Bonnie Kaas, Argye E. Hillis, Alexander Pantelyat, Progressive supranuclear palsy and pawpaw, Neurology Clinical Practice Apr 2020, 10 (2) e17-e18; DOI: 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000000704. Accessed 27JUL2023

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[18] – Merwin, Ian & Byard, Rachel & Pomper, Kirk. (2003). Survival, Growth and Establishment of Grafted Pawpaws in Upstate New York. HortTechnology. 13. 10.21273/HORTTECH.13.3.0421.

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Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over 10 years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! You may have seen some of my videos I create on our YouTube channel, GrowitBuildit (more than 10 million views!). You can find my channel here: Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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