Paw Paw Trees

Fall brings golden yellow color and delicious, tropical-tasting fruits

The paw paw tree (Asimina triloba) is a North American native understory tree that has so much to offer the home garden. The tree typically grows 15 to 20 feet tall with a similar width. In spring, clusters of handsome purplish-brown flowers appear before the long, drooping leaves, which turn golden yellow in fall when the fruits (also called paw paws) ripen. Considered America’s forgotten fruit, paw paws are coming back strong. The fruits are actually very large berries. They typically grow between 2 to 5 inches long and weigh 5 to 7 ounces, but they can weigh as much as 2 pounds. Paw paws’ glaucous green skin turns black as they ripen. The flesh has a rich, creamy, custard-like consistency and a tropical flavor (and aroma) resembling a blend of banana, mango, and pineapple, with floral notes, although some say it tastes more like egg custard or vanilla pudding. Compared to most fruits, paw paws are relatively high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Paw paw trees grow best in deep, fertile, consistently moist, well-draining soil, having a 5.5 to 7.0 pH. Although the trees grow well in shade, the best fruiting occurs in full sun. The trees may take 4 to 5 years to begin producing fruit. They are unpalatable to deer and highly pest and disease resistant. Paw paw trees are the only host plant of the zebra swallowtail butterfly.