Functional Analysis of a PawPaw Tree (Kudos to Clemson and North Carolina State extension articles, which provided much of this info)
1. Trees started from seed will produce fruit in 5-8 years, and grafted cuttings can produce fruit in as little as 3-4 years.
2. 20’ tall and less broad at full maturity
3. 5-10 feet spacing; closer for thicket to mimic natural conditions, further for separate trees.
4. Requires other cultivars present to bear fruit. Plant in groups with at least 3 different varieties.
5. Grow best in fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-7). Thrives in river bottoms.
1. Water. Plan to provide ample water to pawpaw trees, especially during the establishment year, either manually, or as a byproduct of site.
2. Training. To train the tree to grow as a single stem, remove suckers that sprout during the early years. Or, leave suckers on the tree to train the tree as a hedge or screen plant.
3. Shade. Young trees are very sensitive to sunlight and should be kept shaded until they are at least 1.5 feet tall. Can get full sun in mature years.
1. Highly nutritious fruit. Skin and seeds of fruit not edible.
2. Leaves, bark, and twigs produce anti-cancer and insecticidal compounds called acetogenins. Lab tests have show effectiveness against certain cancer cells. Can be used to create tonic.
3. Bark is very fibrous and good for cordage and rope, while wood is light and good for carving – flutes, spoons, etc.
Comments/More Specific Observations: The best time to plant pawpaws is while the tree is not actively growing- early spring or fall. the taproot is easily damaged during transplanting, which will often result in tree death. As a result, saplings grown in containers have a higher transplant survival rate. You can collect wild fruit, save the seed, and start saplings from these seeds. To save pawpaw seeds, collect ripe fruit, remove all pulp from the seed, and place in a cold, moist spot for 90-120 days. Do not let the seeds dry out before planting.
To mimic the understory conditions that the pawpaw needs for its establishment years you could plant on the north side of a fence where the pawpaw will be shaded while its young but receive full sunlight as it matures and grows above the fence line. Another option is to establish a quick growing nitrogen fixing tree or shrub on the south side of where you plan on planting your pawpaw. Get this tree established the year before so it can provide adequate shade for your newly planted pawpaw tree. Choosing nitrogen-fixing species gives you a quick growing tree that will properly shade your pawpaw as well as providing fertility for the tree. The shade tree can then be cut down a few years later once your paw paw is established and the danger of sunburnt leaves and shoots is no longer a threat. A third option is to plant quick growing annual legumes on the south side of the pawpaw while also building a simple bean or pea trellis over the top of the paw paw to provide quick shade, nitrogen fixation, as well as a crop from your leguminous shade-giving plants as you wait for your pawpaws to mature. Also, planting in a site that is as humid as possible is ideal for the pawpaw.
Fruit is extremely perishable and is amazingly delicious when it is perfectly ripe. It can be used much like you would use a banana. For longer-term storage you can freeze the fruit and make ice cream out of it.
Requires pollination, mostly by flies. Flower smells somewhat like rotting flesh to attract these creatures. A way to mimic these conditions is to put rotting meat near paw-paws to attract the pollinators.