Family:     Annonaceae (Custard apple family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     1.4-11 m (4.5-46 ft)

Blooming: Apr.-May


Paw Paw (Indiana Banana)

Asimina triloba  (L.) Dunal.

Flowers: an odiferous flower that is painted with a dark, rusty maroon color. The flowers are about 3.75 cm (1.5 in) in diameter with 3 sepals and 6 petals (3 outer & 3 inner).  

Leaves: The large, alternately arranged leaves can reach up to 30 cm (1 ft) long. Young leaves have hair on them, but it later becomes smooth with age. The leaves have no teeth on them.

Fruit: thick, fleshy green to yellowish green fruit that can grow up to a half of a foot. The fruit contains many large seeds. Flesh is edible.

Sun:  Partial sun

Comments: Pawpaws are from a family with a rich history of tropical fruits. Pawpaws are the only fruit from this family with a temperate range. The fruit is a prized edible and tastes like a thick custard.  The fruit does contain a chemical called annonacin, which is neurotoxic at very high doses (Potts et al. 2012).  On the other side, a study (Brannan et al 2015) found pawpaws to be a good source of phenolics in one's diet.

How to eat: When the fruit is soft but not mushy, cut it in half, remove the seeds and squeeze or scoop out the delicious pulp.

Etymology: The word, triloba, is Latin for, "having three loves".  


Butterfly & moth host plant:  Pawpaws are the larvae host plant for the Pawpaw sphinx (Dolba hyloeus) and the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus).

all photos by Nathanael Pilla


Pawpaws are a great fruiting tree for Northwest Indiana native gardeners. Because the flowers need to be cross pollinated with another individual to produce fruits, you may think of planting two pawpaws to get fruit. It prefers filtered shade so if you have a large understory that needs some more shrubs, think about planting a pawpaw.

Brannan, R.G., T. Peters, and S.T. Talcott. 2015. Phytochemical analysis of ten varieties of pawpaw (Asimina triloba [L.] Dunal) fruit pulp. Food chemistry, 168: 656-661.

Potts, L.F., et al. 2012. Annonacin in Asimina triloba fruit: Implication for neurotoxicity.Neurotoxicology, 33(1): 53-58.

Species Present and Native
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The mission of Save the Dunes is to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana dunes and all natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life.

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