Pawpaw FAQ and Contact Information
Questions About Pawpaw?
Dr. Kirk W. Pomper
Cooperative Extension Building
400 East Main St.
Frankfort, KY 40601
Pawpaw Program Questions?
Contact Program Leader,
Dr. Kirk Pomper at firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions About Pawpaw
The North American native Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a temperate tree fruit in the mostly tropical custard apple family, Annonaceae. Pawpaw is also a common name for papaya (Carica papaya), a tropical fruit in the family Caricaceae. The two fruits are very different from each other, but some pawpaws do have a papaya-like flavor. For further description of pawpaw, see “Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information”.
Pawpaws have a creamy, custard-like flesh with a complex combination of tropical fruit flavors. They are most commonly described as tasting like banana combined with mango, pineapple, melon, berries, or other fruit. There is a considerable variety of flavors among wild Pawpaws, ranging from awful to sublime. Most Pawpaws taste good, some are truly wonderful, and a few are better for throwing than for eating.
All of the named cultivars produce tasty fruit, and different people will have different preferences. We hope to conduct taste panels in the future to develop good descriptions of the flavors of various Pawpaws.
Your best bet is to ask around at a local farmer’s market if you’re in an area where Pawpaws are abundant.
Ripe pawpaws should give when squeezed gently, as ripe peaches do, and can be picked easily with a gentle tug. Ripe pawpaws usually give off a powerful fruity aroma, as well. Color change is generally not a reliable indicator of ripeness.
Pawpaws will generally grow in USDA zones 5-8. They prefer deep, well drained, slightly acidic soil, and plenty of moisture. For more information on site suitability, see “Pawpaw Planting Guide.”
If your main interest is production of quality fruit, grafted trees are the best choice. Seed obtained from high quality fruit may also produce trees with good fruit, but quality will vary considerably from seedling to seedling. If you’re not sure pawpaws will grow in your area, try planting a large number of seeds from a climate zone similar to yours, and you can select the seedlings that do well in your location. Trees that produce disappointing fruit can be grafted later with a superior variety.
We hope that after several years (perhaps by 2005) of data collection and analysis in the Regional Variety Trials we will be able to make specific regional recommendations. In the meantime, our best recommendation is that you choose seeds or cultivars that were selected in a climate zone similar to your location. The cultivar list in the “Pawpaw Planting Guide” has information on the origins of some of the cultivars.
The “Pawpaw Planting Guide” has a list of nurseries that sell seeds or trees. Scion wood may be available from some of the nurseries that sell grafted trees.
Yes. Pawpaws are generally self-incompatible, so you need two trees for cross-pollination. Plant at least two different cultivars or seedlings. Two grafted trees of the same cultivar will not cross-pollinate. (One cultivar, Sunflower, has been reported to be self-compatible, but this has not been verified scientifically.)
Pawpaws will grow in anything from full sun to fairly heavy shade. Light to moderate shade is ideal for establishing young seedlings and newly transplanted trees. Fruit production will be greatest on mature trees in full sun, while very few fruits will be produced by heavily shaded trees.
Transplanting pawpaw trees is difficult. Pawpaws have a deep taproot, and great care must be taken to prevent damage to it and to the rest of the root system. Dig as deep as possible, and keep the root ball intact. After transplanting, prune top growth in proportion with the remaining root mass. (I.e., if one third of the root system was lost or damaged, trim off about one third of the top growth so the remaining roots will be able to support the tree.)
Root suckers often don’t have enough of a root system to support themselves. You can try to encourage development of an independent root system by cutting partway through the connection with the mother tree some weeks prior to transplanting.
As far as we know, definitive studies on chilling requirements have not been done on pawpaw. Current estimates are from 400-1000 chilling hours. In general, expect longer chilling times for Northern adapted selections, and shorter times for Southern adapted trees.
Chip budding is most successful when done in the spring, at bud break or during the first few weeks of rootstock growth.
Starting from seed, a pawpaw tree normally will begin flowering and fruiting in 4-8 years, depending on seed quality, suitability of the location, the care the tree receives, and its genetic makeup (precocity). A grafted tree can begin flowering in 2-3 years after planting.
Pawpaw trees produce natural compounds in leaf, bark, and twig tissue that possess anti-cancer properties. For more information, see https://www.purdue.edu/uns/html4ever/1997/9709.McLaughlin.pawpaw.html
Pawpaw trees produce natural compounds in leaf, bark, and twig tissue that possess insecticidal properties.