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Paw Paw
The pawpaw
Photo credit: USDA/Scott Bauer

 

The Endangered Plants of Florida

Ghost Orchid Gooseberry Longleaf Pine Morning Glory Okeechobee Gourd Pawpaw Pond Apple Scrub Lupine

 

The pawpaw
Asimina tetramera

Florida, La Florida, as it was named by Spanish explorer

Ponce De Leon, in the early 1500's, means Land of the Flowers.

We certainly do attempt to live up to the name!


The Pawpaw Tree/Shrub

A tree or a shrub, either way, the pawpaw is a

flowering fruit plant of legendary proportions.

There are stories told about it, songs written about it and

it is one of the most sought after trees on this Continent.

 

The name pawpaw probably comes from the Spanish for papaya,

as their fruits are quite similar.

It is in the same family as the custard apple.

The pawpaw tree/shrub has the largest edible fruit in North America.

 

The pawpaw has been eaten for hundreds of years by the

First people to inhabit this country, American Natives and

when the Spanish landed in the 1500's, they were met

by a People who already knew the value of the tree.

The four-petal pawpaw
Photo credit: USFWS/Steve Shirah

Lewis and Clark might not have reached the mouth of

the Columbia River and found success on their travels,

 had it not been for the supply of pawpaws given

to them by Native people which kept them

alive when their own food ran out.

 

The pawpaw grows in many places, but is most prolific

 East of the Mississippi in River bottom lands.

There are many varieties of this popular plant indigenous

to many geographical locations through out the country.

 

This fast growing tree has beautiful, delicate red flowers which

blossom into the delicacy that makes it so popular, the pawpaw,

which tastes like Mango, Custard and Banana, all in one.

It is said to be wonderful.

 

*There are some warnings connected to the pawpaw tree/shrub.

Some people have had allergic reactions to the fruit.

Neither the seed, nor the skin of the fruit should be eaten

and the leaves and bark can be irritating to the skin.*

 

Other uses for various parts of the pawpaw are still in testing

and its potential medicinal properties are being studied.


There are several varieties of pawpaws in Florida,

some are shrubs and some are trees.

 

In Central Florida, pawpaws are pollinated by our

Native Zebra/Kite Swallowtail or pawpaw Butterfly.

After they pollinate the pawpaw, they leave behind

 their eggs/larvae on the longleafed pawpaw,

which then in turn eat the leaves and the fruit.

 

All pawpaw leaves are pretty smelly, so not

 too many animals want to eat them.

The fruit hanging on the tree is another story,

it is a race every year when they bloom,

to see who or what will get to them first,

either Man or Beast.

 

 Keep this in mind if you are planning to put one in your yard.

And if, like us, you happen to have Gopher Tortoises on your

property, the pawpaw fruit is one of their favorite foods.


The pawpaws of Florida

 

 The Beautiful pawpaw - E  Deeringothamnus pulchellus

 

Four-Petal - E  Asimina tetramera  (Warea carteri) possum pawpaw

The Four-Petal pawpaw prefers being in

a Sand Pine Scrub Ecosystem.

It is Endangered due to Habitat destruction

 from over development.

It is now found only in Palm Beach County,

protected in Dickinson State Park.

 

The Longleaved pawpaw - Asimina longifolia

 

The Rugel's - E (1986)  Deeringothamnus rugelii

This pawpaw is a low shrub, about 4-8 inches tall

 with fruit that is from 1-3 inches.

It is found near New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County.

Its loss of Habitat is caused as usual, by Construction.

It grows best in poorly drained Pine/Saw Flatwoods

The absence of fires results in the eventual death of the plant.

 

The Scrub/Flag/Bigflower pawpaw -  E  - Asimina obovata

This pawpaw is found in Central and Coastal Florida.

It is a shrub that grows to between 6-10 feet

  and the fruit is 3 inches.

Paw Paw
The pawpaw
Photo credit: USDA/Scott Bauer

 

There are over 55 Endangered or Threatened plants in Florida,

and they are all conveniently listed here:

Florida's Federally Listed Plant Species

 


Places to learn more:

AGR

Asimina

 

efloras.org

Asimina in Flora of North America

 

Florida Native Plant Society

Ecosystems of Florida

 

Floridata

pawpaw

Scrub pawpaw

 

KSU

The pawpaw

 

PBS

Lewis and Clark

 

Purdue

pawpaw

 

Star Banner

The Ocala National Forest Ecosystem

 

USDA

pawpaw

 

USFWS

Four-Petal pawpaw

Rugel's pawpaw

 


 

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