27 April 2013

Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, loved by Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies

The flowers of Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, are downward facing so you have to keep an eye out for them or you will miss their sweet beauty in the spring. Ours is blooming now and has been for the past 2 weeks.
 
In order to get fruit, you have to have 2 cultivars. We don't care about fruit since we planted the tree solely for the zebra swallowtail butterfly's visits. For our purpose a seed started tree was just fine. For fruit, look for grafted cultivars.
 
Some protection from the worst of summer's sun and excellent drainage are critical to their success. Since it is a small tree, ours is in the herb bed with a bird bath and a few native plants.
 
 
 
 
 
KY State University Pawpaw Planting Guide is at this link
 
Excerpts-
"The pawpaw is a tree of temperate humid growing zones, requiring warm to hot summers, mild to cold winters, and a minimum of 32 inches (81 cm) of rainfall spread rather evenly throughout the year, with the majority falling in spring and summer. It can be grown successfully in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 (-15o F/-26o C) through 8 (15o F/-9o C). Pawpaws grow wild over a wide range of latitude, from the Gulf Coastal plain to southern Michigan. However, the trees may not receive adequate chilling hours if planted too close to the Gulf Coast. Most named cultivars originated in the Midwest, which is the northern portion of the pawpaw's range."
 
and
"Another pest is Eurytides marcellus, the zebra swallowtail butterfly, whose larvae feed exclusively on young pawpaw foliage, but never in great numbers. The adult butterfly is of such great beauty that this should be thought more a blessing than a curse. pawpaw is sometimes reported to be plagued by pests, but this may be because of poor tree health resulting from the stress of improper soils and an unsuitable climate."
Blue Ridge Discovery Project
 I dream of having caterpillar eggs and larvae eating my tree!
" Deer will not eat the leaves or twigs, but they will eat fruit that has dropped on the ground. Male deer occasionally damage trees by rubbing their antlers on them in winter."

3 comments:

Jason said...

I think paw paw also is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail. I have several spicebush, but haven't seen any spicebush swallowtail caterpillars yet.

Martha said...

Hi Jason -
We planted spicebushes to attract the parents and every year we have caterpillars.

Spicebush caterpillars roll up in a leaf and you can only see them if you look at the leaves very closely and find the ones that are rolled in half.

Then, We carefully open the leaf and peek at them.

They start out as just a piece of leaf torn and folded over - about 1/4 inch. Then, as they grow they move and take over entire leaves.
They are wonderful and worth hunting for.

Amanda Plante said...

"A tree so nice they named it twice." This is a fun native fruit. They're more fun with they have room to spread -- digging suckers can be a chore.