Paw-paw is an all-around unique native plant, being the northernmost member of a mainly tropical family of trees. This understory tree naturally occurs in wooded slopes and ravines, but can flourish in your yard if planted in the right spot. Trees often spread by suckers creating a Paw Paw thicket. Paw paw is unusual in that its small maroon colored flowers are actually pollinated by flies, rather than traditional pollinators. For best fruit production, plant multiple trees to ensure lots of cross-pollination. Paw-paw’s leaves contain a bitter natural insecticide, leaving it untouched by browsing animals like rabbit or deer. Its seeds are spread by a variety of different animals, such as red foxes, squirrels, and even box turtles.
Paw-paw has the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States. Its flavor falls somewhere between banana and mango, and can be used in a multitude of ways. Some towns even have a “paw-paw festival”, where people can celebrate this unique fruit by showing off their latest recipes – such as paw-paw ice cream or paw-paw beer.
Paw-paw is the exclusive host to both the exotic Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, as well as the Pawpaw Sphinx Moth (both pictured above), making it an important part of the ecosystem.