Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Paw Paw Tree

When I was a kid these trees were pretty common around here. We had a few special places in the woods that they would grow and produce fruit each year because the larger trees had been thinned out for burning which exposed the Paw Paw to more sunlight and allowed them to fruit.

Sadly the particular spot I remember them growing in was turned into a subdivision back in the late 80's I think and I have never found a wild one here abouts. I have looked in numerous places but these trees are kinda tricky to find unless you have a lot of experience with them.

For one thing they grow differently if they are an understory tree as compared to being exposed. Supposedly the young seedlings need to be almost completely shaded to survive but the catch 22 is that some claim they need to be in direct sunlight to bear fruit.

Now how does that work with any regularity one might ask? I mean trees don't just move do they.

Now couple that with the fact that they seem to only survive int he wild as an understory tree which puts their leaves way up high and you see the problem in finding them.

I started coming across Paw-Paw trees again when I took up kayaking several years ago and used to find them along a couple of rivers down in South Eastern Missouri fairly regularly.

My theory is that there are several different regional breeds of these trees and some are more tolerant than others when it comes to growing and fruiting conditions. The fact that there are now several different cultivars available for this tree commercially kinda leads some credence to my theory.

I have seen many claim these trees are hard to transplant as seedlings because mostly they throw out sucker shoots rather than growing from a seed and the suckers need to be quite large before they are able to grow on their own. I can attest that I have seen one seedling dug up and transplanted some 30 years ago when I was forced to attend a trail ride and my cousin dug one up and planted it in his backyard. Unfortunately it isn't his back yard any longer and one of the owners after him decided to remove the tree at some point.

After about five years of looking I have decided to give up trying to find one locally and just buy my trees. I was lucky enough to find one the other day at a plant sale but now I am worried about just how to plant it. I am not sure how old it is and I may need to keep it in shade for another year before finding a better sunny spot for it.

These trees also need to be somewhat protected from wind as their large leaves are delicate. This also poses a problem around the Small-Hold. Add to that the fact they need a non-related cross breeder (or two some say) and attempting to get the Paw-Paw established here is going to be a long drawn out process.

Here is a PDF file link to growing the Paw-Paw Tree

The fruit bruises easily and doesn't keep well either, which is another reason you don't see the fruit in stores or supermarkets. However they taste like a cross between a Banana, Peach, Melon and custard pie, or at least did in my memory from childhood. The ones I had more recently while kayaking tasted more like a banana/apple cross though.

So you see just having the one tree I purchased means very little and from my experience I won't know for several years if what I got is even any good. That is of course if I even manage to get this finicky little tree to grow in the right condition and my theory is it will be a complete guess what those conditions actually are.

I have no clue how old the little tree I bought is but I would guess at two years by the look of it. More than likely started from a seed. Does it need to be shaded which would mean planting it in a big pot to be placed in a more sun exposed area next year? If so I will have to protect it well all Winter.

Decisions decisions...

I guess I also need to start shopping for a couple of cross pollinators too.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. It was a pretty common shrub around homes when I was a child in eastern Ky. Sadly people stopped eating the fruit so they mostly stopped growing them----Ray

  2. I haven't seen any around where we live but over in the mountains there are almost groves of them in places. They are one of those things that seem to smell a lot better than they taste to me anyway. I think possums like them so you don't see too many ripe ones. For anyone that hasn't seen them, they are kind of like a banana that has gone bad, at least the ones I encountered.

  3. The Paw-paw fruit is a rare treat while backpacking in the fall.

  4. Good luck. How well do they burn when older??

  5. Good luck! I don't seem to have much success growing trees on our property. I've resorted to growing them in containers, which will limit the amount of fruit they will produce. It's either that, or get scurvy.

  6. PP,

    I know these trees are in Arkansas, a friend of mine has some on her property from years back.
    I hope your little tree survives and produces this fruit you like.


Leave a comment. We like comments. Sometimes we have even been known to feed Trolls.