Pawpaw Trees: A Native Fruit


Even though Pawpaw is native to eastern Kansas, many people in the state have never eaten one. Fruit resemble fat bananas and are generally up to 6 inches long and as much as 3 inches wide. The taste is unique and is difficult to describe but is often said to resemble bananas or pineapple and has a texture somewhat like custard. They are rarely grown commercially because they are difficult to ship. Ripe fruit will only hold 2 to 3 days at room temperature and up to a week under refrigeration.

Pawpaw prefers a well-drained, moderately acid (pH 5.5 to 7.0), moist soil and like a high organic matter content. An organic mulch is also recommended. Irrigation will be helpful to necessary depending on what part of Kansas they are grown.

In the wild, the pawpaw is an understory tree and may do better with partial shade, especially during the first 2 to 3 years. Protection from high winds is also advisable due to the large leaves.

The pawpaw is a small tree that may reach 20 feet high but is less broad. Trees require cross pollination and so at least 2 and preferably 3 different varieties should be grown. These trees are pollinated by insects other than bees and must be planted close together. Trees should be no further than 30 feet apart in order to insure good pollination.

The soil for planting should be prepared in advance of receiving the trees. Amend the soil with organic matter in the area where the trees will be planted. Do not amend just the soil from the planting hole especially if the soil is heavy and has a high clay content. If you do, you have essentially made a pot for the tree that will hold water and may drown the tree. Rather add organic matter to the area in which the tree will be planted before digging the planting hole; at least a 10 foot by 10 foot square. You may want to treat the entire area where your trees will be planted. Add 2 inches of organic matter to the surface of the soil and then till in. In heavy soils, it may also be helpful to construct berms before planting. A berm is simply an area that is slightly higher than the surrounding soil so water drains well.

The planting hole should be the same depth as the root system but 2 to 3 times as wide. Pawpaws have fleshy roots and are better planted in the spring (April) rather than fall unless container grown. Container grown plants can be planted virtually anytime.

Keep newly planted trees well-watered. The soil should be moist but not water-logged. Keep the planting area completely free of weeds or any other type of vegetation within 3 feet of the trees. Mulching is recommended.

There has been a significant amount of work done on pawpaw by Kentucky State University. You can reach their pawpaw site at http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/. Kentucky State has seedling trees available for sale though I would recommend getting named varieties instead as the fruit will be of a higher quality. There are a
number of named varieties available from Peterson Pawpaws at http://www.petersonpawpaws.com. Neil Peterson’s pawpaws are theresult of 25 years of research and have been widely tested. Both of the above websites are excellent sources of information.

Pawpaws are also available from Stark Brothers (www.starkbros.com) and Raintree Nursery (www.raintreenursery.com) including some of the Peterson varieties.

The University of Missouri has a couple of different pawpaw cultivar trials. You can find results from one of these trials
at http://www.centerforagroforestry.org/pubs/pawpaws.pdf .

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One Response to “Pawpaw Trees: A Native Fruit”

  1. tanalyn dollar Says:

    Just a quick note of thanks for an informative article on pawpaw trees and for referring us as a source. If we can provide resources or you have feedback to share with us, I welcome the dialogue!

    Tanalyn Dollar
    Internet Marketing Manager
    Stark Bros.
    573.754.8874

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