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Pawpaw is a small, deciduous tree that may attain 5 to 10 m in height. In the forest understory, trees often exist in clumps or thickets. This may result from root suckering or seedlings developing from fruits that dropped to the ground from an original seedling tree. In sunny locations, trees typically assume a pyramidal habit, straight trunk and lush, dark green, long, drooping leaves that turn gold and brown in color during the fall. Flowers emerge before leaves in mid spring. The blossoms occur singly on previous year's wood and may reach up to 5 cm in diameter. Flowers are strongly protogynous, self-incompatible and require cross pollination although some trees may be self-compatible. Pollination may be by flies and beetles which is consistent with the presentation appearance of the flower: dark, meat-colored petals. Fruit set in the wild is usually low and may be pollinator or resource-limited but under cultivation, tremendous fruit loads have been observed. Fruits are oblong-cylindric berries that are typically 3 to 15 cm long, 3 to 10 cm wide and weigh from 200 to 400 g. They may be borne singly or in clusters which resemble the "hands" of a banana plant (Musa spp.). This highly aromatic, climacteric fruit has a ripe taste that resembles a creamy mixture of banana, mango, and pineapple. Shelf-life of a tree-ripened fruit stored at room temperature is 2 to 3 days. With refrigeration, fruit can be held up to 3 weeks while maintaining good eating quality. Within the fruit, there are two rows of large, brown, bean shaped, laterally compressed seeds that may be up to 3 cm long. Seeds contain alkaloids in the endosperm that are emetic. If chewed, seed poisons may impair mammalian digestion but if swallowed whole, seeds may pass through the digestive tract intact. This tree is cold hardy all the way to zone 5. It's not a tropical, but it is in the same family as the soursop and custard apple. There is no real commercial growth of this fruit yet.
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- Listed on Jul 21, 2016
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