Here is a tree that has lovely, utterly unique foliage, handsome and unusual flowers, tasty, effortless fruit, bright, autumn foliage, and grows in sun or shade while tolerating drought or wet and is not bothered by pests or disease; in short a tree that demands little and gives back so much, and yet, you would be hard put to find it in most nurseries. This hugely overlooked treasure of the North American forests is the Paw paw, or Asimina triflora, one of eight species in the Asimina genus.

This deciduous tree could reach 30 feet in height, but normally is found growing from 15 to 20 feet with an equal spread. This size is very well-suited to modern gardens and makes the tree suitable for growing beneath utility lines. When planted in the open it becomes an upright, wide pyramidal form. Most interestingly the large green leaves (up to a foot in length!) have a languid droop to them that is quite distinctive and gives the tree a wearied demeanor while being beautifully coarse-textured. These same emerald leaves turn a bright golden-yellow for autumn and makes for a perfect contrast to red maples. In addition to the foliage, there are rich, deep maroon flowers which appear before the leaves in spring. These flowers are as unique as the leaves and are quite attractive though not particularly sweet smelling. Then the flowers are followed by the 3 to 5 inch long fruits, which ripen from green to brown. These are universally popular with man and animal because of their mango/banana, custard sweetness. And they are nutritious, being high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese as well as a good source of potassium, essential amino acids, and significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, placing paw-paws on par with bananas and apples. And the fruit is eagerly consumed by small mammals making the Paw paw a must-have for the wild-life friendly garden. And Paw paws make superb patio trees, specimens, or naturalised along a woodland edge. They require only average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in either full sun or part shade. They are free from pests and the only maintenance might be slight pruning, if necessary, to shape. And they grow across a vast area from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This means they are also quite adaptable to the UK, New Zealand and especially Australia. As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.


Paw paw

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