Woolly pawpaw

Asimina incana
Family: Annonaceae

Natural History
Woolly pawpaw flowering in March, 2012 in Marion County
Photo credit: Mary Keim (Flickr ID Mary Keim).
Used under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Woolly pawpaw belongs to the Annonaceae family, which is known for having a distinct pungent smell when the leaves are crushed. The pawpaw habitat consists of well-drained sandy soils, longleaf pine-scrub oak ridges, old fields, and pine flatwoods where little or no saw palmetto occurs. It ranges from southeastern Georgia to central Florida.

Although some species of pawpaw have fragrant flowers, woolly pawpaw flowers smell like rotting meat. It is sometimes called polecat bush, and polecats are skunks! The flowers are attract blowflies and carrion beetles who pollinate them. Caterpillars of zebra swallowtail butterflies and pawpaw sphinx moths eat woolly pawpaw leaves. The plants often bear dried, brown clumps of old webbing and frass left behind by the previous season's caterpillars.

Historically the ripe pulp of the fruits was used by the early settlers to make yellow dye. It is part of the diets of raccoons, opossums, squirrels, bears, and turkeys.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Pawpaw grows in the well-drained sandy soil ridges of sandhills, longleaf pine-scrub oak, old fields, and pine flatwoods where little or no saw palmetto occurs.
Size/Form: Pawpaw is a shrub that can reach heights of 5' but is generally about 2' tall.
Stem: The grayish-brown stem may be covered by a thin, fuzz layer.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, deciduous, and 1½" to 4" long by ¾" to 2¼" wide. The narrow elliptical shaped leaves usually have fuzzy upper surfaces while the underneath surface is veiny and also fuzzy. The leaf base is wedged to rounded and the leaf tip is rounded. The leaf margin is smooth.
Flowers: The flowers have outer white petals and inner cream-colored petals.
Fruit: The fruit is a yellow-green berry when ripe that is oblong shaped, 3" long, and irregularly bulging.

 

Images

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New leaves emerging in the springtime. New leaf covered in the "woolly" fuzz. Mature leaf as it appears in autumn. Spring leaves with older frass and webbing.
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida
Upper surface of leaf. Lower surface of leaf. Branch with flowers below and new leaves above. Close-up of individual flower.
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida

 

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