The common pawpaw is noted for its cup-shaped, purple flowers. In the summer flowers give way to irregularly shaped, edible fruit which turns dark brown when mature. This fruit is said to have a banana-like flavor and can be eaten raw or used in ice creams or pies. Raccoons, squirrels, and opossums also love the pawpaw fruit though, and will often beat people to it. The pulp of this ripened fruit can also be used to create a yellow dye. The tree’s leaves have a pointed-oval shape, are large and droopy, and change from a rich green to a golden yellow in the fall.
Family: Annonaceae (Custard Apple)
Characteristics: In April to May, cup-shaped, purple flowers appear before the leaves. The 6-12 inch long leaves are elliptical, droopy, and rich green. In the fall, leaves turn golden. This tree produces a yellow-green, waxy, irregularly shaped, and edible fruit that turns dark brown when mature in early fall. Bark is gray and smooth. This tree grows as a large shrub or small tree with a pyramidal shape. It grows 15-20 feet high and wide, though can reach up to 30-40 feet high in ideal conditions.
Foliage: Deciduous (leaves lost seasonally)
Geographic Origin: Southeastern United States (native)
Cultivation Notes: Requires low maintenance. Does best in full sun to part-shade. Prefers moist, acidic, and fertile soils. May be difficult to transplant and has excessive sucker growth. The tree is also very sensitive to droughts.
Number on Campus: 5
Sources: Dirr, Morton Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Garden