The Asimina triloba is commonly known as the pawpaw, paw paw, paw-paw or common pawpaw. The pawpaw belong to the same family as the ylang-ylang, sour sop and the custard-apple. It is native to eastern, southern and Midwestern United States. In nature, this tree can be found in the understory and grows best in upland, areas with well-drained, fertile soil.
The leaves of the pawpaw are large and their growing habit is alternate. They are simple, large leaves that can be obovate to oblong in shape. The size of the leaves can vary from five to eleven inches in length and are two to three inches wide. When the leaves are crushed an aroma similar to green pepper can be detected. In the fall the leaves turn a rusty yellow color.
The tree usually grows up to 35 feet tall, with the rare exception of those that grow up to 45 feet. The trunks are generally 12 inches in diameter. The trees grow in small clusters.
The flowers of the pawpaw are about one to one and a half inches across. These purplish-brown flowers have three sepals and six petals. The flowers appear with, or right before, the leaves in the spring and have a slight yeasty smell.
The pawpaw fruit resembles a short, fat banana and begin appearing in September or October. It is large, yellowish-green to brown. Their dimensions are about two and a half inches to four inches long and very fleshy. Embedded in the fruit pulp are several brown seeds, which are about one half to one inches in diameter. The fruit is so heavy that the weak branches of the pawpaw bends down.
The bark is smooth and brown. At times, there are small lenticels, which look like warts. The twigs are red-brown in color. The buds are fuzzy and purplish-brown. It is flattened and is often curved. The terminal bud on the twigs are about one-fourth to one-half inch long.
Since the pawpaws grow in small groves, they may cause the growth of oaks or hickories to slow down or to die out. Pawpaws create the groves by spreading through root suckers or through sexual reproduction by seeds.
NatureServe has given the pawpaw a conservation rank worldwide of G5, which means that it is very common. In the United States, it is also considered very common, except in New York, where it is a threatened species and in New Jersey it is endangered.
This plant may also be found in southern Ontario where it is ranked by NatureServe at N3 or vulnerable. In areas of deer populations, they seem to thrive because deer do not care for the scent of the tree, so they will eat other seedlings.