Botanical Name: Asimina triloba
Other Common Names: Wild banana
Brief Description and Notes: What a treat to have this beauty from a tropical plant family (Annonaceae, to which the delicious Custard Apple/Cherimoya also belongs) dwelling around us! With few pest problems, pretty maroon flowers in early spring, and heavenly fruits in late summer, this is certainly a native tree to love, locate, and perhaps plant! By the end of August through October, look for ripe pawpaws turning lighter shades of green giving way into yellow and softening the way a peach or avocado might. The leaves are large and elliptical; tree height can reach 15-30′.
Where To Look For It: Low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines and along streams; part shade to sun; cultivated urban food forests/communal orchards
Ornamental Value: Attractive large leaves and early spring flowers
Ecological Value & Roles: They are home to Zebra Swallowtails, who ingest the acetogenins found in Asimina leaves and become unpalatable to certain predators. Various wildlife also eat the fruit and often beat humans to the harvest.
Edibility and Other Human Use: Fruits are delicious when ripe. Eat right away–simply cut in half and scoop or devour as you wish! Do not eat the seeds, but do save them to plant more trees.
Photos courtesy of Victoria Moyer and USDA ARS