Small-flowered dwarf Pawpaw is a long lived perennial shrub found in dry pine or oak forests or thickets. It generally grows only 6-8 feet tall. It is not salt tolerant. The young shoots and leaves are covered with a rusty down, later becoming smooth. The small brownish-purple, six-petaled flowers are borne singly in leaf axils before leaf emergence. The fruit of Dwarf Pawpaw is smaller than other pawpaws but is edible off the tree or used in cooking. More than one genetic strain is needed for best fruit set. Pawpaw leaves are the only plant the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will eat.
Preference is for loose, moist to dry, well-drained soils in partial shade. As it matures and establishes it will tolerate full sun. It does not tolerate dry compacted soils and they have a long taproot so transplanting is difficult. Pawpaws need some babying to establish but are worth the effort. This plant works well as an understory tree in an open woodland setting and provides wildlife with food- and you too if you can get there first.