Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal

Image courtesy of UGA Herbarium

Author: Amanda Jones

Common Names: (Callaway, 1990)

Higher Taxa: (Takhtajan, 1997)


Kral desribes briefly the discovery of the species triloba, stating, "The genus Asimina was proposed by Adanson in 1763. Ten years prior to this date, Linneaus had published the type species, Asimina triloba, as Anona triloba, basing his descriptions upon an illustration of Mark Catesby (Nat. Hist. 2: 85, t. 85)"(Kral, 1959).

The species triloba has many distinguishing features to aid in recognition. The flowers are a dark maroon color and grow up to 1.5 inches across (Chapman, 1872). They have six leathery petals, with three on the the inside surrounded by the other three. The flowers tend to droop along with the fruit and leaves. Normal bloom period lasts from March to May (Chapman, 1872). The fruit is "oblong in shape and a banana-like, yellow-brown berry, very pulpy" (Dean, 1968). Fruits are usually 3-5 inches long, occcuring in clusters, "sweet and very fragrant" (Dean, 1968). Fruits are a yellow-green to brownish color when ripe, and are edible when ripe in October (Duncan and Duncan, 1988). The Pawpaw (species A. triloba) is the largest fruit native to the United States and is well known for its "delicious, custard-like fruit" (Callaway, 1990). Layne then comments, "As the public continues to gain interest in exotic tropical fruits, the Pawpaw will not be overlooked" (Layne, 1996). The leaves are broad, flat, simple, and are arranged alternately along the branches. "They are widest at the apex and tipped with a needle-like bristle" (Moore, 1998). They resemble the leaves of the umbrella tree, but smaller, 4-12 inches long (Coker and Totten, 1937). When bruised, the leaves give off "a distinctive odor, similar to very strong green peppers (Moore, 1998).

Click here forSpecies Identification Key.


A. triloba is common over central and northern Alabama, growing in rich woods from Florida to Texas, Nabraska, and Michigan, native to eastern United States (Gorer, 1976). Pawpaws "flourish in the deep, rich, fertile soils of river bottom lands from as far north as Ontario to as far south as Florida" (Layne, 1996).

Table I: North American Distribution of A. triloba

Asimina triloba

North America:
Continental United States; Canada
Yes Callaway, 1990
Eastern North America:
United States east of Mississippi;
Ontario and eastern Canada
Yes Dean, 1968
Southeastern United States:
Yes Callaway, 1990
Southern Appalachian States:
Yes Duncan and Duncan, 1988
Coastal Plain Yes Dean, 1968
Piedmont Yes Callaway, 1990
Blue Ridge Mountains Widespread Duncan and Duncan, 1988
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Widespread Callaway, 1990
Ridge and Valley Yes Callaway, 1990
Cumberland Plateau Yes: Kentucky Callaway, 1990
Central Arch Yes: Ohio Callaway, 1990
Georgia Widespread Kral, 1959
Clarke County, Georgia Yes: Lake Herrick Amanda Jones, Pers. Ob.
Sams Farm No Amanda Jones, Pers. Ob.
Old Field No Amanda Jones, Pers. Ob.
Wetland ? -
Woods No Amanda Jones, Pers. Ob.
1-Hectare Plot No Amanda Jones, Pers. Ob.

Natural History:

Pawpaws are deciduous trees which prefer warm, dry climates with plenty of sunshine. The are predominant in many flatwoods, old fields, and sandy ridges (Callaway, 1990). Flowers appear with or before the leaves between March and May (Chapman, 1872). Fruits usually do not appear until August and are ripe in October (Dean, 1968). Pawpaws may be planted in either spring or fall. Also, it is a popular fruit among wildlife (Duncan and Duncan, 1988). Click here to view pictures of Fruits and Flowers.

How to Encounter:

Pawpaws (A. triloba) grow in low woods, typically in sandy areas near water. They have a tendency to be close to the edges of forests and live in clusters, similar to a shrub-like environment (Layne, 1996). Locally: The species A. triloba is abundant at Stone Mountain Park, existing at forest edges near nature trails and also near the Riverboat Marina and the catfish pond (Jones, 1998; pers.ob.). Also, the species exists in the Oconee National Forest near the edge of Lake Herrick (Jones, 1998; pers.ob.).


  • Callaway, M. Brett. The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Kentucky State University, Frankfort, KY. Nov. 1990, Pub. No. CRS-Hort1-901T.pp.1-7, 13-14.

  • Chapman, A.W. Flora of the Southern United States. Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, and Company, New York: 1872. p. 15.

  • Coker, William C. and Totten, Henry R. Trees of the Southeastern States. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1937. p. 15.

  • Dean, Blanche E. Trees and Shrubs in the Heart of Dixie. Southern University Press, Birmingham, AL: 1968. pp. 96, 134.

  • Duncan, Marion B. and Wilbur H. Trees of the Southeastern United States. The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia: 1988. pp. 239-242. ISBN: 0-8203-0954-0

  • Gorer, Richard. Trees and Shrubs. David and Charles, Limited: North Vancouver, BC, 1976. p. 28. ISBN: 0-7153-6850-8.

  • Kral, Robert. A Taxonomic Revision of Asimina and Deeringothamnus in North America North of Mexico. Florida State University: 1959. pp. 6, 18, 22-26.

  • Layne, Desmond R. The Pawpaw [Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal]: A New Fruit Crop for Kentucky and the United States. HortScience, Vol. 31 (5): September, 1996. pp.777-783.

  • Moore, Michael. Position: Cureator at the University of Georgia Herbarium (Plant Sciences Bldg.).

  • Takhtajan, Armen. Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York: 1997. pp. 39, 41, 42, 45, 47. ISBN: 0-231-10098-1.

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