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Asimina triloba
(common pawpaw) in fruit
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Annonaceae
Subfamily: Annonoideae
Genus: Asimina
Type species
Asimina triloba
  • Orchidocarpum Michx.
  • Pityothamnus Small
  • Porcelia Persoon 1807, not Ruiz & Pavón 1794
  • Uvaria Torr. & A. Gray 1838, illegitimate homonym, not L. 1753

Asimina is a genus of small trees or shrubs described as a genus in 1763.[2][3] Asimina is the only temperate genus in the tropical and subtropical flowering plant family Annonaceae.[4] Asimina have large, simple leaves and large fruit. It is native to eastern North America and collectively referred to as pawpaw. The genus includes the widespread common pawpaw Asimina triloba, which bears the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States.[5] Pawpaws are native to 26 states of the U.S. and to Ontario in Canada.[5][6] The common pawpaw is a patch-forming (clonal) understory tree found in well-drained, deep, fertile bottomland and hilly upland habitat. Pawpaws are in the same plant family (Annonaceae) as the custard apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, soursop, and ylang-ylang;[7] the genus is the only member of that family not confined to the tropics.


Michel Adanson (1727–1806), who named the genus Asimina

The genus name Asimina was first described and named by Michel Adanson, a French naturalist of Scottish descent. The name is adapted from a Native American term of unknown origin, assimin,[8] through the French colonial asiminier.[9]

The common name (American) pawpaw, also spelled paw paw, paw-paw, and papaw, probably derives from the Spanish papaya, perhaps because of the superficial similarity of their fruits.[10]


A red-purple, green, and white flower
Flower of Asimina reticulata
Flower of A. triloba

Pawpaws are shrubs or small trees to 2–12 m (6.6–39.4 ft) tall. The northern, cold-tolerant common pawpaw (A. triloba) is deciduous, while the southern species are often evergreen.

The leaves are alternate, obovate, entire, 20–35 cm (7.9–13.8 in) long and 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) broad.

The flowers of pawpaws are produced singly or in clusters of up to eight together; they are large, 4–6 cm across, perfect, with three sepals and six petals (three large outer petals, three smaller inner petals). The petal color varies from white to purple or red-brown.

The fruit of the common pawpaw is a large, edible berry, 5–16 cm (2.0–6.3 in) long and 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) broad, weighing from 20–500 g (0.71–17.64 oz), with numerous seeds; it is green when unripe, maturing to yellow or brown. It has a flavor somewhat similar to both banana and mango, varying significantly by cultivar, and has more protein than most fruits.[5]

Species and their distributions[edit]

Accepted species[11][12][13]
  1. Asimina angustifolia Raf. 1840 not A. Gray 1886; Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina[14] Regarded as a synonym of A. longifolia by some authorities.[15]
  2. Asimina incana (W. Bartram) Exell – woolly pawpaw. Florida and Georgia. (Annona incana W. Bartram[16])
  3. Asimina longifolia Raf.slimleaf pawpaw. Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
  4. Asimina manasota DeLaneyManasota papaw native to two counties in Florida (Manatee + Sarasota); first described in 2010[17] Not recognized by some authorities.[18]
  5. Asimina pulchella (Small)Rehder & Dayton – white squirrel banana. Endemic to 3 counties in Florida. (endangered)
  6. Asimina rugelii B.L. Rob – yellow squirrel banana. Endemic to Volusia county Florida (endangered)
  7. Asimina obovata (Willd.) Nash) (Annona obovata Willd.) – Flag-pawpaw or Bigflower pawpaw – Florida [19][20]
  8. Asimina parviflora (Michx.) Dunalsmallflower pawpaw. Southern states from Texas to Virginia.
  9. Asimina pygmaea (W. Bartram) Dunal – dwarf pawpaw. Florida and Georgia.
  10. Asimina reticulata Shuttlw. ex Chapman – netted pawpaw. Florida and Georgia.
  11. Asimina spatulata (Kral) D.B.Wardslimleaf pawpaw. Florida and Alabama[21] Regarded as a synonym by some authorities.[22]
  12. Asimina tetramera Smallfourpetal pawpaw. Florida (endangered)
  13. Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal – common pawpaw. Extreme southern Ontario, Canada, and the eastern United States from New York west to southeast Nebraska, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. (Annona triloba L.[23])


The common pawpaw is native to shady, rich bottom lands, where it often forms a dense undergrowth in the forest, often appearing as a patch or thicket of individual, small, slender trees.

Pawpaw flowers are insect-pollinated, but fruit production is limited since few if any pollinators are attracted to the flower's faint, or sometimes nonexistent scent. The flowers produce an odor similar to that of rotting meat to attract blowflies or carrion beetles for cross pollination.[24] Other insects that are attracted to pawpaw plants include scavenging fruit flies, carrion flies and beetles. Because of difficult pollination, some[who?] believe the flowers are self-incompatible.

Pawpaw fruit may be eaten by foxes, opossums, squirrels, and raccoons. Pawpaw leaves and twigs are seldom consumed by rabbits or deer.[25]

The leaves, twigs, and bark of the common pawpaw tree contain natural insecticides known as acetogenins.[26]

Larvae of the zebra swallowtail butterfly feed exclusively on young leaves of the various pawpaw species, but never occur in great numbers on the plants.[27]

The pawpaw is considered an evolutionary anachronism, where a now-extinct evolutionary partner, such as a Pleistocene megafauna species, formerly consumed the fruit and assisted in seed dispersal.[28]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Asimina triloba is often called "prairie banana" because of its banana-like, creamy texture and flavor.

Wild-collected fruits of the common pawpaw (A. triloba) have long been a favorite treat throughout the tree's extensive native range in eastern North America.[5] Pawpaws have never been widely cultivated for fruit, but interest in pawpaw cultivation has increased in recent decades.[5] Fresh pawpaw fruits are commonly eaten raw; however, once ripe they store only a few days at room temperature and do not ship well unless frozen.[5][29] Other methods of preservation include dehydration, production of jams or jellies, and pressure canning. The fruit pulp is also often used locally in baked dessert recipes,[30] with pawpaw often substituted in many banana-based recipes.

The common pawpaw is of interest in ecological restoration plantings, since this tree grows well in wet soil and has a strong tendency to form well-rooted clonal thickets.[citation needed]


The earliest documentation of pawpaws is in the 1541 report of the Spanish de Soto expedition, who found Native Americans cultivating it east of the Mississippi River. Chilled pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted it at his home in Virginia, Monticello. The Lewis and Clark Expedition sometimes subsisted on pawpaws during their travels. Daniel Boone was also a consumer and fan of the pawpaw. The common pawpaw was designated as the Ohio state native fruit in 2009.[31][32] Numerous pawpaw festivals have celebrated the plant and its fruit.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Flora of North America Vol. 3, Pawpaw, Asimina Adanson, Fam. Pl. 2: 365. 1763".
  2. ^ Adanson, Michel. 1763. Familles des Plantes 2: 365 in French
  3. ^ "Tropicos, Asimina Adans".
  4. ^ Huang, Hongwen; Layne, Desmond; Kubisiak, Thomas (July 2000). "RAPD Inheritance and Diversity in Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)". Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 125 (4): 454–459. doi:10.21273/JASHS.125.4.454.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  6. ^ Flora of North America: Asimina triloba. "Asimina triloba". Flora of North America. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  7. ^ Boning, Charles R. (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-1-56164-372-1.
  8. ^ Werthner, William Benjamin; Werthner, Evangeline Hippard; Kienholz, Aaron Raymond (1935). Some American trees an intimate study of native Ohio trees. Macmillan. OCLC 681865854.[page needed]
  9. ^ Sargent, Charles Sprague; Faxon, Charles Edward; Gill, Mary (Wright) (1933). Manual of the trees of North America (exclusive of Mexico). Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 680282467.[page needed]
  10. ^ Hormaza, José I. (July 2014). "The Pawpaw, a Forgotten North American Fruit Tree" (PDF). Arnoldia. 72 (1): 13–23.
  11. ^ "The Plant List, search for Asimina".
  12. ^ "Asimina". Flora of North America. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Biota of North America Program 2013 county distribution maps, Asimina".
  14. ^ "Biota of North America Program 2013 county distribution maps, Asimina angustifolia".
  15. ^ "Asimina angustifolia Raf". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  16. ^ "Annona incana". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  17. ^ "Asimina manasota - Species Page - ISB: Atlas of Florida Plants".
  18. ^ "Asimina Adans". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  19. ^ "US Department of Agriculture plants profile, Asimina obovata (Willd.) Nash, bigflower pawpaw".
  20. ^ "Asimina obovata". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  21. ^ "Alabama Plant Atlas, Asimina spatulata".
  22. ^ "Asimina spatula (Kral) D.B. Ward". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  23. ^ "Asimina triloba". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  24. ^ Guy Hand (October 12, 2011). "In Awe of the Pawpaw". Boise Weekly. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  25. ^ "PAWPAW Fruit Facts". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  26. ^ Sampson, Blair J.; McLaughlin, Jerry L.; Wedge, David E. (1 January 2003). "Paw paw extract as a botanical insecticide, 2002". Arthropod Management Tests. 28 (1): L5. doi:10.1093/amt/28.1.L5.
  27. ^ "California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. 1996,1999, "Pawpaw: Asimina triloba, Annonaceae"". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  28. ^ Boone, Madison J.; Davis, Charli N.; Klasek, Laura; del Sol, Jillian F.; Roehm, Katherine; Moran, Matthew D. (January 2015). "A Test of Potential Pleistocene Mammal Seed Dispersal in Anachronistic Fruits using Extant Ecological and Physiological Analogs". Southeastern Naturalist. 14 (1): 22–32. doi:10.1656/058.014.0109. S2CID 86809830.
  29. ^ "Purdue University FoodLink - Pawpaw". FoodLink - Purdue Extension. 2020.
  30. ^ Angier, Bradford (1974). Field guide to edible wild plants. Stackpole Books. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-8117-0616-2. OCLC 799792.
  31. ^ Craig Summers Black (February 4, 2009). "America's forgotten fruit: The native pawpaw tastes like banana and grows close to home". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 2009-03-14.
  32. ^ Ohio Revised Code "Section 5.082 - Ohio Revised Code | Ohio Laws".

External links[edit]