Pawpaw Tree (Asimina Triloba) is a butterfly host plant also known as Indiana Banana, American Custard Apple, Banango, Poor Man's Banana, or Hoosier Banana. It is the only plant on which the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus) will feed on the leaves. Without this plant you will not have this butterfly unless you are fortunate enough to have a neighbor that has it. Individual pale green eggs are laid on lower leaves. If you want to find caterpillars, check the underside of the leaves as this is where they will live and eat. This tree is not a source of butterfly nectar, however other pollinators may enjoy the maroon blooms in the spring. The caterpillars are hard to find and typically nocturnal eaters ands hide during the day.
This tree can grow up to 10-15’ and will self-seed in patches where they grow in understory on riverbanks and bottomlands areas. It is a very adaptable tree able to withstand -20 degree temperatures (hopefully we won’t see those temps in Florida!) and the humid heat of our Florida tropical weather. It can grow in wet river loam, clay and also withstand periods of drought once established. Deer do not like these – so unlike many small trees and shrubs, Pawpaws seem to be safe due to the toxic acetogenins the leaves contain. The leaves turn gold in the winter. Seeds should be kept moist and planted indoors in the fall to over-winter for spring germination.
Young trees will not survive direct sunlight, but an older tree can be a good choice in full sun if kept well-watered. Fruit typically appears after five years, but only if you have multiple trees. These trees do not self-pollinate and a near neighbor of a different cultivar produces the best fruit. Fruit must ripen on the tree and will get to be a large yellow-green in fall when they are ready to harvest. The spread of this plant is often multi-stemmed from suckers.