One of our favorite plants we sell is the pawpaw tree, Asimina triloba. Known by many names including the West Virginia banana, and the American custard apple. This is the largest native North American fruit, with the pawpaws reaching about 2 inches wide by 10 inches long. The fruit’s flavor is something like a blend of mango, pineapple and banana, and has traditionally been used to make ice cream, pie filling, custard, and even wine.
This plant is native all through Appalachia, and is a gorgeous, sometimes multistemmed understory tree growing to 10-40 feet with large leaves that are somewhat tropical in appearance. Pawpaws will grow in deep shade to full sunlight, although we’ve found they enjoy a bit more shade when very young. Because they attract and host butterflies, songbirds and insects, the pawpaw tree is an excellent addition to any pollinators, rain, or butterfly garden. The fruit is an important food source for the pawpaw Sphinx moth!
This beloved plant is the inspiration for the names of several towns and seasonal festivals, and the subject of venerable songs like “way down yonder in the pawpaw patch” https://youtu.be/SidjBL6tQF4