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This article is about Carica papaya, the widely cultivated papaya (or papaw or pawpaw), a tropical fruit tree. For the mountain papaya (Vasconcellea pubescens) of South America, see Mountain papaya. For the Eastern North American tree (and fruit) called "pawpaw", see Asimina triloba. For other uses, see Papaya (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Chaenomeles speciosa (flowering quince) or Pseudocydonia chinensis (Chinese quince), which like Carica papaya are sometimes called mugua.
Carica papaya - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-029.jpg
Papaya tree and fruit, from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Papaya cross section BNC.jpg
Papaya cross section
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Caricaceae
Genus: Carica
Species: C. papaya
Binomial name
Carica papaya
Papaya output in 2005, shown as a percentage of the top producer, Brazil (1.7 megatonnes)

The papaya (/pəˈpə/ or US /pəˈpɑːjə/) (from Carib via Spanish), papaw, (/pəˈpɔː/[2]) or pawpaw (/ˈpɔːˌpɔː/[2] is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, and is one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae.[3]

It is native to the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from southern Mexico and neighbouring Central America.[4] It was first cultivated in Mexico[citation needed] several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classical civilizations.

The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes. Unusually for such large plants, the trees are dioecious. The tree is usually unbranched, unless lopped. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria, but are much smaller and wax-like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into large fruit - 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long and 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter. The fruit is a type of berry.[5] It is ripe when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.

Carica papaya was the first transgenic fruit tree to have its genome deciphered.[6]

Origin and distribution[edit]

Papaya is native to Central and northern South America[1][4] and has become naturalized throughout the Caribbean Islands, Florida and several countries of Africa. Additional crops are grown in India, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the U.S. state of Hawaii.[1]

Cultivation and production[edit]

Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen, never fruit. The female will produce small, inedible fruits unless pollinated. The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries. Almost all commercial papaya orchards contain only hermaphrodites.[7]

Originally from southern Mexico (particularly Chiapas and Veracruz), Central America, and northern South America,[4] the papaya is now cultivated in most tropical countries. In cultivation, it grows rapidly, fruiting within three years. It is, however, highly frost-sensitive, limiting its production to tropical climates. Temperatures below −2 °C (29 °F) are greatly harmful if not fatal. In Florida and California, growth is generally limited to southern parts of the states. In California, it's generally limited to private gardens in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties. It also prefers sandy, well-drained soil, as standing water will kill the plant within 24 hours.[8]

For cultivation, however, only female plants are used, since they give off a single flower each time, and close to the base of the plant, while the male gives off multiple flowers in long stems, which result in poorer quality fruit.[4]

Top producers of papayas, 2013
Country/State Production in millions of tons
Source: United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, FAOSTAT [9]

India and Brazil are the major producers of papaya, together providing 57% of the world total of 12.4 million tons in 2013 (FAOSTAT chart).

Gaining in popularity among tropical fruits worldwide, papaya is now ranked fourth in total tropical fruit production after bananas, oranges, and mango. Global papaya production has grown significantly over the last few years, mainly as a result of increased production in India.[10] Papaya has become an important agricultural export for developing countries, where export revenues of the fruit provide a livelihood for thousands of people, especially in Asia and Latin America.

Diseases and pests[edit]


Papaya ringspot virus is a well-known virus within plants in Florida.[4] The first signs of the virus are yellowing and vein-clearing of younger leaves, as well as mottling yellow leaves. Infected leaves may obtain blisters, roughen or narrow, with blades sticking upwards from the middle of the leaves. The petioles and stems may develop dark green greasy streaks and in time become shorter. The ringspots are circular, C-shaped markings that are darker green than the fruit itself. In the later stages of the virus, the markings may become gray and crusty. Viral infections impact growth and reduce the fruit's quality. One of the biggest effects that viral infections have on papaya is the taste. As of 2010, the only way to protect papaya from this virus is genetic modification.[11]

The papaya mosaic virus destroys the plant until only a small tuft of leaves are left. The virus affects both the leaves of the plant and the fruit. Leaves show thin, irregular, dark-green lines around the borders and clear areas around the veins. The more severely affected leaves are irregular and linear in shape. The virus can infect the fruit at any stage of its maturity. Fruits as young as 2 weeks old have been spotted with dark-green ringspots about 1 inch in diameter. Rings on the fruit are most likely seen on either the stem end or the blossom end. In the early stages of the ringspots, the rings tend to be many closed circles, but as the disease develops, the rings will increase in diameter consisting of one large ring. The difference between the ringspot and the mosaic viruses is the ripe fruit in the ringspot has mottling of colors and mosaic does not.[12]


The fungus anthracnose is known to specifically attack papaya, especially the mature fruits. The disease starts out small with very few signs, such as water-soaked spots on ripening fruits. The spots become sunken, turn brown or black, and may get bigger. In some of the older spots, the fungus may produce pink spores. The fruit ends up being soft and having an off flavor because the fungus grows into the fruit.[13]

The fungus powdery mildew occurs as a superficial white presence on the surface of the leaf in which it is easily recognized. Tiny, light yellow spots begin on the lower surfaces of the leaf as the disease starts to make its way. The spots enlarge and white powdery growth appears on the leaves. The infection usually appears at the upper leaf surface as white fungal growth. Powdery mildew is not as severe as other diseases.[14]

The fungus phythphthora blight causes damping-off, root rot, stem rot, stem girdling, and fruit rot. Damping-off happens in very young plants by wilting and death in plant. The spots on established plants start out as water-soaked lesions at the fruit and branch scars. These spots can get bigger and cause the death of the plant. The roots can be severely and rapidly infected, causing the plant to rapidly brown and wilt away collapsing within days. The most dangerous feature of the disease is the infection of the fruit because it cause harm to people who consume it. The biggest evidence that the fungus is present is the water-soaked marks that appear first along with the white fungus that grows on the dead fruit. After the fruit dies, it shrivels and falls to the ground.[13]


The papaya fruit fly is mainly yellow with black marks.[4] The female papaya fruit fly has a very long, slender abdomen with an extended ovipositor that exceeds the length of its body. The male papaya fruit fly looks like the female with the differences of a hairy abdomen and no ovipositor. Long, slender eggs are laid inside of the fruit by the female papaya fruit fly. The larvae are white and look very much like the regular fruit fly larvae. The female is capable of laying 100 or more eggs, and they are laid during the evening or early morning in groups of ten inside young fruit. They usually hatch within 12 days of being in the fruit where they feed on the seeds and interior parts of the fruit. When the larvae mature (usually 16 days after being hatched) they eat their way out of the fruit, drop to the ground, and pupate just below the soil and emerge within one to two weeks as mature flies. The flesh of the papaya must be ripe for the fly to migrate towards the surface of the fruit because unripe papaya juice is fatal to them. The papaya will turn yellow and drop to the ground if it is infected by the papaya fruit fly.[13]

The two-spotted spider mite is a 0.5-mm-long brown or orange-red or a green, greenish yellow translucent oval pest. They all have needle-like piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed by piercing the plant tissue with their mouthparts, usually on the underside of the plant. The spider mites spin fine threads of webbing on the host plant, and when they remove the sap, the mesophyll tissue collapses and a small chlorotic spot forms at the feeding sites. The leaves of the papaya fruit turn yellow, gray, or bronze. If the spider mites are not controlled, they can cause the death of the fruit.[13]

The papaya whitefly lays yellow, oval eggs that appear dusted on the undersides of the leaves. They eat the papaya fruits leaves, therefore damaging the fruit. There, the eggs developed into flies in three stages called instars. The first instar has well-developed legs and is the only mobile immature life stage. The crawlers insert their mouthparts in the lower surfaces of the leaf when they find it suitable and usually do not move again in this stage. The next instars are flattened, oval, and scale-like. In the final stage, the pupal whiteflies are more convex, with large, conspicuously red eyes.[13]


Papayas with yellow flesh

Two kinds of papayas are commonly grown. One has sweet, red or orange flesh, and the other has yellow flesh; in Australia, these are called "red papaya" and "yellow papaw", respectively.[15] Either kind, picked green, is called a "green papaya".

The large-fruited, red-fleshed 'Maradol', 'Sunrise', and 'Caribbean Red' papayas often sold in US markets are commonly grown in Mexico and Belize.[4][16]

In 2011, Philippine researchers reported that by hybridizing papaya with Vasconcellea quercifolia, they had developed conventionally bred, nongenetically engineered papaya resistant to PRV.[17]

Genetically engineered cultivars[edit]

In response to the papaya ringspot virus (PRV) outbreak in Hawaii, in 1998, genetically altered papaya were approved and brought to market (including 'SunUp' and 'Rainbow' varieties.) Resistant varieties have some PRV DNA incorporated into the DNA of the plant are resistant to PRVs.[18][19] As of 2010, 80% of Hawaiian papaya plants were genetically modified. The modifications were made by University of Hawaii scientists who made the modified seeds available to farmers without charge.[20][21]


Papayas can be used as a food, a cooking aid and in traditional medicine.[4] The stem and bark may be used in rope production.

Papaya flower bud cooked as vegetable in Manado cuisine

Meat tenderizing[edit]

Both green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are rich in papain,[4] a protease used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. Its ability to break down tough meat fibers was used for thousands of years by indigenous Americans. It is now included as a component in powdered meat tenderizers.

Nutrients, phytochemicals and culinary practices[edit]

Papayas, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 179 kJ (43 kcal)
10.82 g
Sugars 7.82 g
Dietary fiber 1.7 g
0.26 g
0.47 g
Vitamin A equiv.
47 μg
274 μg
89 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.023 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.027 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.357 mg
0.191 mg
Folate (B9)
38 μg
Vitamin C
62 mg
Vitamin E
0.3 mg
Vitamin K
2.6 μg
20 mg
0.25 mg
21 mg
0.04 mg
10 mg
182 mg
8 mg
0.08 mg
Other constituents
Lycopene 1828 µg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

In a 100 gram serving, papaya fruit provides 43 calories and is a significant source of vitamin C (75% of the Daily Value, DV) and a moderate source of folate (10% DV), but otherwise has negligible content of nutrients (right table).

The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stews. Green papaya is used in Southeast Asian cooking, both raw and cooked.[22] In Thai cuisine, papaya is used to make Thai salads such as som tam and Thai curries such as kaeng som when still not fully ripe. In Indonesian cuisine, the unripe green fruits and young leaves are boiled for use as part of lalab salad, while the flower buds are sautéed and stir-fried with chillies and green tomatoes as Minahasan papaya flower vegetable dish. Papayas have a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be used to make jellies. The smell of ripe, fresh papaya flesh can strike some people as unpleasant. In Brazil, the unripe fruits are often used to make sweets or preserves.

The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste.[4] They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper.

In some parts of Asia, the young leaves of the papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach.


Papaya skin, pulp and seeds contain a variety of phytochemicals, including carotenoids and polyphenols.[23]

Traditional medicine[edit]

In some parts of the world, papaya leaves are made into tea as a treatment for malaria, but the mechanism is not understood and no treatment method based on these results has been scientifically proven.[24]

Allergies and side effects[edit]

Papaya releases a latex fluid when not ripe, possibly causing irritation and an allergic reaction in some people.[4]

Excessive consumption of papaya may cause carotenemia, the yellowing of soles and palms, which is otherwise harmless. However, a very large dose would need to be consumed; papaya contains about 6% of the level of beta carotene found in carrots (the most common cause of carotenemia).[25]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Carica papaya was originally described and published in Species Plantarum 2:1036. 1753. GRIN (9 May 2011). "Carica papaya information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Papaw". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Carica". 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Morton JF (1987). "Papaya". NewCROP, the New Crop Resource Online Program, Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Purdue University; from p. 336–346. In: Fruits of warm climates, JF Morton, Miami, FL. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Heywood, VH; Brummitt, RK; Culham, A; Seberg, O (2007). Flowering plant families of the world. Firefly Books. p. 88. ISBN 9781554072064. 
  6. ^ "Scientists decipher fruit tree genome for the first time". 
  7. ^ C. L. Chia and Richard M. Manshardt, (2001). "Why Some Papaya Plants Fail to Fruit" (PDF). Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. Retrieved April 2015. 
  8. ^ Boning, Charles R. (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. pp. 166–167. 
  9. ^ "Papaya production statistics from Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division". UN Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database. 2013. 
  10. ^ "An Overview of Global Papaya Production, Trade, and Consumption". Electronic Data Information Source, University of Florida. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  11. ^ Gonsalves, D., S. Tripathi, J. B. Carr, and J. Y. Suzuki (2010). "Papaya ringspot virus". 
  12. ^ Hine, B.R.; Holtsmann, O.V.; Raabe, R.D. (July 1965). "Disease of papaya in Hawaii" (PDF). 
  13. ^ a b c d e Mossler, M.A.; Crane, J. date= September 2002. "Florida crop/pest management profile: papaya" (PDF). 
  14. ^ Cunningham, B. & Nelson, S. (2012, June). "Powdery mildew of papaya in Hawaii" (PDF). 
  15. ^ "Papaya Vs Papaw". News (15 April 2005). Horticulture Australia. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Sagon, Candy (13 October 2004). "Maradol Papaya". Market Watch (13 Oct 2004) (The Washington Post). Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "Euphytica, Volume 181, Number 2". SpringerLink. doi:10.1007/s10681-011-0388-z. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  18. ^ "Genetically Altered Papayas Save the Harvest". 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  20. ^ Ronald, Pamela and McWilliams, James (14 May 2010) Genetically Engineered Distortions The New York Times, accessed 1 October 2012
  21. ^ [1] Archived March 31, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Natty Netsuwan. "Green Papaya Salad Recipe". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  23. ^ Rivera-Pastrana DM, Yahia EM, González-Aguilar GA (2010). "Phenolic and carotenoid profiles of papaya fruit (Carica papaya L.) and their contents under low temperature storage". J Sci Food Agric 90 (14): 2358–65. doi:10.1002/jsfa.4092. PMID 20632382. 
  24. ^ Titanji, V.P.; Zofou, D.; Ngemenya, M.N. (2008). "The Antimalarial Potential of Medicinal Plants Used for the Treatment of Malaria in Cameroonian Folk Medicine". African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 5 (3): 302–321. PMC 2816552. PMID 20161952. 
  25. ^ "Search the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference". Retrieved 2010-08-18. 

External links[edit]