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We are in debt to our Pawpaw trees

Paw-paw Asimina triloba

Native to eastern North America, paw-paw is a large shrub or small tree up to 40 feet tall. A shade-tolerant understory tree, paw-paw, or pawpaw, prefers moist, well-drained sites such as those near streams and swamps.

The larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly are known to feed almost exclusively on its leaves.

Paw-paw blossom

Pawpaw trees are blooming in Kent and Sussex Counties right now. The blossoms are brownish-purple, about an inch and a half long and hang from the bare branches like so many tiny bells. Flies and bugs are attracted to their disagreeable odor, but pollination only occurs with two unrelated trees. No kissin' first-cousins allowed.

The leaves don't appear until after the tree fully blooms.

Paw-paw trees also spread by rhizomes, so they may not be the best tree for a nicely mown yard.

Pawpaw leaves, the largest on any native eastern tree, are 6 to 12 inches long and half as wide. Its fruit usually appears in September ( "When the Goldenrods bloom, the Pawpaws will ripen soon.") and turns from light green to dark brown as it ripens.

You know they are ripe when they fall off of the tree on their own. Inside, the ripe fruit looks somewhat like an over-ripe banana, but don't let that stop you from sampling what is sometimes known as the other "Fruit of the Gods."

The name pawpaw is said to derive from the Spanish “papaya”, as its fruit bears a bit of resemblance.

The Delaware State Champion Pawpaw is located on the grounds of Hagley Museum and stands 41 feet tall, with a C.B.H. (circumference) of 28 inches, making the diameter only about 9 inches. Source: "Big Trees of Delaware, 5th edition"

The Pawpaw

In dusky groves, where cheerily all day long, Mocking the nut-hatch and the cardinal, The trim drab cat-bird trolls its fitful song, I hear the mellow golden pawpaws fall.

… What luscious fruit! scorned as of little worth By those who long for guavas of the South, Figs and bananas, pining that the North Is barren of the luxuries of the earth!

Fruit that I sought in childhood with a mouth Eager to taste thy wild delicious juice! What orange grown in groves of Italy, Or what pomegranate ripened in the dews Of Grecian isles, would I not now refuse For the rare-flavored, racy pulp of these?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Also blooming right now are our native Fringe trees, Chionanthus virginicus.

and our Yellow poplars, Liriodendron tulipifera. More about them next week.


If you would like to watch us start and run the huge 20 hp Fairbanks-Morse semi-diesel engine in the mill, stop by Abbotts Mill Nature Center by 2 PM on Tuesday, May 9th. It'll take half an hour or so to get it going and then we'll run it for an hour or so.



Coral honeysuckle 4-22-2023 - Notice the united upper leaves.

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens,) also known as Trumpet Honeysuckle or Woodbine, is a very showy vine, native to Delaware. But don't confuse it with Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), also native but quite an aggressive tree climber.

Coral Honeysuckle 4-22-2023 - (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral honeysuckle begins blooming in the springtime, even before it is officially Spring, and continues to bloom all through the Summer and Fall, until the very first hard-frost.

Hummingbirds love coral honeysuckle and I’m very surprised that more people don’t grow it in their yards. It's not aggressive, meaning that it stays put wherever you plant it, but it does need something to climb on, such as a trellis or arbor.

Coral honeysuckle - (A little bit of Virginia creeper can be seen creeping up the left side.)

The pair growing on our old gate trellis (pictured) were planted about 20 years ago and the only attention they get is the occasional trimming in the late fall. What more could you ask for?

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