Native to eastern North America, the pawpaw (Asimina triloba), sometimes called Indian banana, is a hardy member of a family of tropical fruits that includes cherimoya (Annona cherimola). The tree grows to 30 ft.; it generally spreads as wide as tall when grown alone, but you'll often see thickets of narrow, erect plants that arise from suckering. Large, tropical-looking, medium green leaves are oval, somewhat drooping, 410 in. long; they turn bright yellow in fall. Purplish or brownish (sometimes green) flowers with three prominent petals are large but not showy. Fruit is roughly oval, 35 in. long, yellowish green ripening to brown. Soft, custardlike flesh has a flavor between that of banana and mango and contains numerous large brown seeds.
Pawpaw is a pest-resistant plant and needs no spraying. It fruits well in sun or shade but grows better if given light shade in its early years. The only major drawback is the perishability of the fruit, which won't keep for more than a week unless frozen. If possible, purchase grafted plants of named selections such as 'Allegheny', 'KSU Atwood', 'Mango', 'Mitchell', 'NC-1', 'Overleese', 'Potomac', 'Prolific', 'Rappahannock', 'Shenandoah', 'Sunflower', 'Susquehanna', 'Taylor', and 'Wabash'. Plant two or more selections for cross-pollination.
Dwarf pawpaw (A. parviflora) resembles A. triloba but is smaller in all respects. It grows 68 ft. tall and 46 ft. wide, bearing small, brownish purple to greenish purple flowers in early spring. Fruit is 122 in. long. Often found in dry woods. Better used for naturalizing than for fruit.