Asimina triloba’s growth habit is clonal, and it can form small colonies. To produce fruits, pawpaw’s flowers must be cross-pollinated from genetically distinct plants. The fly-pollinated flowers are reddish and give off a disagreeable odor. The drooping leaves may be up to a foot long and give the tree a tropical look. In fall the leaves turn yellow.
It’s known that pawpaw was important in many early Indigenous diets. In his book “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit,” food author Andrew Moore writes that “pawpaw seeds and other remnants have been found at archaeological sites of the earliest Native Americans, and in large, concentrated amounts . . . whether at Meadowcroft [a national historic landmark in Washington County, Pa.] or the rugged hills of Arkansas, the earliest Americans put pawpaws to great use.”
Beside the cool leaves and flowers and tasty fruit, A. triloba just keeps giving us more reasons to like it: it’s the larval host of the elegant zebra swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) and the pawpaw sphinx moth (Dolba hyloeus).