are small trees, typically under 40 feet in height, with slender, straight
trunks. The trees reproduce less by seed than by root sprouting (clonally)
and therefore occur most frequently in thickets or small clumps. Pawpaws
occur on rich, moist sites in mainly the central and southern parts of
Illinois, although there is limited distribution in all but the northern
and some of the northwestern counties.
are a northern representative of the custard-apple family (Annonaceae).
They tolerate competition and shade very well, and are present in the understory
of rich, moist forests.
is smooth when young and develops shallow fissures with age. It is brown
to grayish-brown and blotched.
are alternate, simple, 10 to 12 inches long and up to six inches broad.
They are untoothed, oblong and are narrower toward the base. The surface
is smooth, light green and the underside paler green. The leaves have a
distinctive odor of green bell pepper when crushed.
appear in the spring as the leaves begin to unfold and are at first green,
turning deep reddish-purple. The species name, triloba, refers to the calyx
(the outer most flower whorl, made up of the sepals), which consists of
three triangular-shaped sepals (sepals are the outermost flower part that
usually encloses the rest of the bud).
produce light green, three to six inch long, fruits with yellow, edible
flesh. The fruits ripen in the fall and have and custard-like texture and
fruits are a favorite food of opossums (pawpaw is sometimes referred to
as possumhaw), raccoons, foxes, mice, and people.
is light green, coarse grained, weak, and is commercially unimportant.
Pawpaw is, however, planted as an ornamental, particularly where clusters
of small trees are desired.