Asimina triloba

Common Name Papaw
Family Annonaceae
Synonyms Annona triloba.
Known Hazards The seed contains a toxic alkaloid and is poisonous[106, 274]. The leaves can cause dermatitis in a small number of sensitive people[222, 274]. Other reports say that handling the fruit can cause dermatitis[200, 227].
Habitats An understorey tree of woodlands, growing in deep rich moist soils of river valleys and bottomlands, often forming dense thickets[229].
Range South-eastern N. America - New Jersey to Florida, west to Texas and Nebraska.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun


Bloom Color: Purple. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Also known as: Annona triloba, Asimina, Asiminier, Asiminier Trilobé, Asiminier de Virginie, Banane du Pauvre Homme, Custard Apple, Dog-Banana, Papaye Américaine, Papaye American, Papaye Nordique, Pawpaw, Paw Paw. Form: Rounded, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Asimina triloba is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)The plant is self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : 5-8

Suitable for: medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Asimina triloba Papaw
Asimina triloba Papaw


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses:

Edible fruit - raw or cooked[2, 3, 11, 46, 62, 99]. A very good size, it can be up to 16cm long and 4cm wide[82, 200]. Of variable quality, some forms (with orange skins) are exquisite with the flavour of banana custard whilst others (with yellow, white or dark brown skins) can be unpleasant[57, 85, 183]. Another report says that the white fruits are mildly flavoured and later ripening than the orange fruits[227]. The fruit can also be used for making preserves, pies, ice cream and other sweet desserts[183]. The fruit falls from the tree in autumn and is then stored until fully ripe[227]. The fruit can cause gastro-intestinal upsets for some people[274].

Medicinal Uses

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Antiemetic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Laxative;  Narcotic;  Parasiticide.

The fruit is used as a laxative[222]. The leaves are diuretic[222]. They are applied externally to boils, ulcers and abscesses[4, 222]. The seed contains the alkaline asiminine, which is emetic and narcotic[222, 227]. They have been powdered and applied to hair to kill lice[222]. The bark is a bitter tonic[4]. It contains the alkaline analobine, which is used medicinally[227].
Other Uses
Dye;  Fibre;  Insecticide;  Parasiticide;  Wood.

A fibre from the inner bark is used for making strong rope and string[61, 82, 227, 257]. The seed has insecticidal properties[222]. A yellow dye is made from the ripe flesh of the fruit[229]. Wood - light, soft, weak, spongy, coarse grained[82]. It weighs 24lb per cubic foot[227]. It is not used commercially[229].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Pest tolerant, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a rich loamy soil with plenty of moisture and a sunny position[1, 134, 160]. Plants are hardy to about -20°c according to one report[184], whilst another says that they are hardy to -35°c when fully dormant[160]. The papaw produces a delicious edible fruit which is a potentially commercial crop[61]. The wild-collected fruit is often sold in local markets in America[82]. The tree commences bearing in 4 - 6 years from seed and yields up to 30 kilos per tree[160]. There are some named varieties[183]. The mature fruit is rarely seen in Britain[182], only ripening after a long hot summer[200]. A small tree growing against a south-facing wall at Bristol Botanical Gardens had a small crop of immature fruit in early September 1996 (following the hot summer of 1995) - this was the first time it had been seen to bear fruit[K]. Flowers are formed in the leaf axils of wood produced the previous summer[82, 229]. Established plants resent root disturbance, the best plants are obtained by planting them out into their permanent positions as young as possible though young plants should be given some protection for their first year or two[200]. The leaves emit a heavy unpleasant odour when crushed[82, 229]. Plants are untroubled by pests or diseases[160]. Special Features:North American native, Attracts butterflies, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15°c[134]. Stored seed requires stratification, it has embryo dormancy and an impermeable seedcoat and can take up to 18 months to germinate[113, 134]. Dried seed quickly loses its viability. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for t least their first winter. If trying them outdoors, plant them into their permanent positions in early summer once the plants are more than 15cm tall. Consider giving them some protection from winter cold for their first winter outdoors. Layering.

 3 pictures - click to enlarge