Comprehensive Description

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General: Custard-apple or Annona family (Annonaceae). This perennial tree or shrub grows from 3 to 12 m tall. The drooping, pear-shaped leaves are alternate, from 10 to 30 cm long, with smooth margins and pointed tips. The leaves are coated with fine whitish hairs on the upper surface with rusty-colored hairs on the under-side. Leaves are aromatic, with a smell reminiscent of bell pepper. Inconspicuous but interesting flowers (4 to 5cm in diameter) with 3 sepals, are green upon opening and turn to dark purple or maroon in color. From 1 to 4 flowers grow in the leaf axils before leafing, usually in April or May. The six velvety petals (2cm-2.5cm long) are stiff and curl slightly backwards. Yellowish green to brown, cylindrical, mango-shaped fruits are 7-16 cm long and grow solitarily or 2 to 4 together. The large fruits (5 to 16 ounces) ripen between August and October. Fruits have a thin skin, which contain a yellow custard-like pulp that is said to taste like papaya. Some varieties contain a whitish-green pulp that is less flavorful. Fruits contain several flat 2cm long seeds. The deciduous leaves turn bright yellow before dropping in the fall.

Similar species: A. parivflora, is called the “dwarf pawpaw” or “possum-simmon.” A. tetramera, commonly known as ‘opossum pawpaw’, is a rare and endangered species from southern Florida. Other similar species include A. incarna, A. longifolia, A. obovata, A. pygmaea, A. reticulata, A. X nashii.

Distribution: This plant grows over much of Eastern North America from Ontario and Michigan south to Florida and Texas. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database


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