A deciduous shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)The plant is self-fertile.
The edible fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. A very good size, it can be up to 16cm long and 4cm wide. Of variable quality, some forms (with orange skins) are exquisite with the flavour of banana custard whilst others (with yellow, white or dark brown skins) can be unpleasant. Another report says that the white fruits are mildly flavoured and later ripening than the orange fruits. The fruit can also be used for making preserves, pies, ice cream and other sweet desserts. The fruit falls from the tree in autumn and is then stored until fully ripe. The fruit can cause gastro-intestinal upsets for some people.
Prefers a rich loamy soil with plenty of moisture and a sunny position. Plants are hardy to about -20°c according to one report, whilst another says that they are hardy to -35°c when fully dormant. The pawpaw produces a delicious edible fruit which is a potentially commercial crop. The wild-collected fruit is often sold in local markets in America. The tree commences bearing in 4 - 6 years from seed and yields up to 30 kilos per tree. There are some named varieties. The mature fruit is rarely seen in Britain, only ripening after a long hot summer.
Flowers are formed in the leaf axils of wood produced the previous summer. Established plants resent root disturbance, the best plants are obtained by planting them out into their permanent positions as young as possible though young plants should be given some protection for their first year or two. The leaves emit a heavy unpleasant odour when crushed. Plants are untroubled by pests or diseases.