Plants and People Project

Pawpaw - Asimina triloba

Native Americans enjoyed the delicious custard like flesh of this small tree's fruit. It is often compared to tropical fruits. Pawpaw fruit ripens during a four-week period between mid August and into October

"Eastern Native American tribes cultivated the Pawpaw for its fruit, spreading the tree from the Ohio River Valley south to Florida by planting seeds as they traveled. The fruits were mashed into cakes and then dried for use by hunters as portable food.  The fibrous inner bark was used as cord to string fish, a practice adopted by the colonists." Hiker's Notebook

The seeds are insecticidal. Indians dried and powdered them.They applied them to children's heads to control lice. Peterson's Medicinal Plants.

The leaves are also insecticidal. Touching the leaves gives some people a rash.

Colonists cultivated pawpaws. In fact, they were grown commercially in the US until around WWII. Now they are typically only found in the wild.

Kentucky State University scientists are currently working to restore and improve the cultivation if the Pawpaw.

"Aromas may be used commercially in cosmetics and skin products. Pawpaw plants produce natural compounds (annonaceous acetogenins) in leaf, bark and twig tissues, that possess both highly anti-tumor and pesticidal properties. Current research by Dr. Jerry McLaughlin at Purdue University suggests that a potentially lucrative industry, based simply on production of plant biomass, could develop for production of anti-cancer drugs (pending F.D.A. approval) and natural (botanical) pesticides." Pawpaw fact sheet from Purdue University

Pawpaw fruits can be made into wine.

Pawpaw Patch

Many mammals and birds enjoy Pawpaw fruit, too. Down in the Pawpaw Patch

The Pawpaw is the host plant for the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar.

Angiosperm families off site

What tree is it? off site

Identification and other facts / More facts / Asimina Fact sheet


More Pawpaw info

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past. Be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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Posted 7/17/05 Cindy O'Hora