Our paw-paw trees already appear to have flower buds! They’re still small trees, only a few years old, but we just may get fruit. This is exciting, because paw-paws are one of the few tropical-type fruits you can grow in this climate.
Paw-paw (Asimina triloba) trees produce large, mis-shapen fruits that have a generally turd-like appearance. Also known as custard apples, they have a strong, almost sickly sweet odor that repulses some people but attracts others. And no, this isn’t going to be a repeat of the infamous durian incident. Paw-paws are a well-established, reputable fruit.
They do have their quirks, though. They are dioecious, meaning any particular tree only has either male-only or female-only flowers. The flowers themselves have a mild rotting-meat smell, meant to attract beetles and flies as pollinators, and are colored in an odd mix of yellow and maroon. (I once leaned in to sniff a flower, only to have the center of it fly away. It was a moth with perfect paw-paw-flower mimicry. Talk about a narrow niche.) I know a guy who suspended half a dead chicken in one of his paw-paw trees in hopes of better pollination. He was blessed with an abundance of fruits that year.
The trees prefer to grow by the river bank in groves, reaching up through the canopy of sycamore, but they can also be grown in full sun, with a short and squat appearance. The river trees provide more entertainment, though. When I shake a paw-paw tree and hear one of those slightly unripe fruits barreling down through the foliage, I do get a bit of an adrenaline kick.
They’re easy to grow, too! My dad‘s going to be selling seeds now that we’ve got a nice little grove going. But you can collect seeds yourself. Just be sure to wear a hardhat.