Use: Wildlife, edible fruit, erosion control, dying material and wool yellow
One of the most unique and forgotten understory trees or large shrubs in native to Jefferson County and the Eastern United States is the Pawpaw. Indigenous to low bottom woods, wooded slopes, ravines, and riparian corridors this purple-flowered fruit-bearing plant spreads by root suckers and can colonize. The fruit, which has a banana-like flavor was a staple in early America.
The Shawnee tribes had a Pawpaw month, Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto noted the plant in 1540, and Lewis & Clark feasted upon the fruits on their return trip in 1810. George Washington enjoyed pawpaw as an ice cream flavor. Several towns in eastern America were named after the fruit. However, the plant fell out of favor after the Great Depression when the fruit was known as the “poor man’s banana” and was eaten with such regularity people tired of it. In 2011, Chef Jose Andres called the pawpaw “the most amazing American fruit” and has been a staple feature in his award winning restaurants in Washington DC and Las Vegas.
Pawpaws attract Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Wrens, Grosbeaks, Titmouse, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Chickadees, Warblers, Towhees, and Thrushes. The blooms attract various native bees and honey bees. The tree is a host plant for 13 species of butterflies and moths in the greater Jefferson County area including the beautiful Zebra Swallowtail.