Content Detail

Whether planted in full sun or part shade, the pawpaw tree, native to the Midwest, works well as a specimen or can be useful as a screen. Nodding, dark purple flowers in the spring, elongated edible fruit in the summer, and a yellow to yellow-green fall color add to the appeal of this small understory tree. Pawpaws may be difficult to find in nurseries. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

  • Family (English) Custard Apple
  • Family (botanic) Annonaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 15-20 feet
  • Mature width 15-20 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Purple
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Pyramidal, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations Excessive sucker growth, May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size & Form: 

Pawpaw is a small tree that grows 15 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide.  It has a pyramidal form.  It can be multi-trunked and can form colonies through suckering.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 9. Common in woodlands and low, wet areas.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is gray and relatively smooth.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple, alternate leaves that are 12 inches long. They resemble magnolia leaves. Fall color is yellow to yellow-green.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Cup-shaped, 6-petaled, nodding purple flowers appear in spring with an odor similar to fermented grapes.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The edible, cylindrical, 6 inch long,  yellowish green fruits mature in early autumn. Their flavor and flesh consistency resembles that of bananas. Best fruit production occurs when two trees are growing near one another.



Plant care:

Pawpaw is a small, native, understory tree. It grows in low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines, and along streams. Its spreading habit forms colonies or thickets.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

No serious disease or insect problems. It is sensitive to drought. It is resistant to deer browse and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Mango pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Mango’):

A late-ripening cultivar which produces large, flavorful fruit with orange-yellow flesh. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.

NC-1 pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘NC-1’):

An early-ripening cultivar which produces large fruit with fewer seeds and thinner skin. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Pennsylvania Golden pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Pennsylvania Golden’):

A very early-ripening cultivar with very sweet fruit. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.

Prolific pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Prolific’):

An early-ripening cultivar which produces large crops at an early age. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Overleese pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Overleese’):

An early-ripening cultivar with large fruit and few seeds. Grows 12 to 15 feet high and wide.

Sunflower pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Sunflower’):

Ripens later than other cultivars and produces large fruit with fewer seeds. Grows 15 to 25 feet high and wide.


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