Found paw paw tree-now what?

thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near NashvilleMarch 9, 2014

I'm so excited...after months of asking practically every human I come into contact with for more than 2 minutes if they know of any pawpaw trees, I finally ask a 82 year old man who casually says "yea, I've got 2-3 out in the woods behind my house but animals always get the darn fruit"!!!
He also says he would allow me to get a cutting. So I walk off feeling all giddy, until I get home and start researching the best way to propagate a new pawpaw tree from an old one. I know, should have looked into that BEFORE searching the local countryside for a tree. Anyway, from what I've read so far, air layering, mound layering or other methods are said to not work, and I haven't seen anything that does except maybe seeds which will take until fall and is very unlikely then.

So you know why I am here: Can anyone tell me how- if any way- I can root a cutting or cut scion and graft to something else or ANY WAY THAT I CAN USE MY NEW FOUND TREE TO CREATE A NEW TREE AT MY HOUSE???? Also, I'm an inexperienced fruit tree hobbyist so keep that in mind before recommending some kind of really hard, complicated process. If it just isn't possible, let me know that too. Thanks all.

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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


The best way for you is to find some root suckers from the 3 trees and dig up as much roots as you can while the tree is still in dormant stage and plant it at your place.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 3:16AM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

thanks, Tonytran. Hate to sound like an idiot, but how do I find the root suckers? I think root suckers result in very small tree-looking growths growing out of the ground at the base of the tree? Are you suggesting that I dig one of these-if there are some- up and cut them away from the tree with as much root as possible? If not, do I just dig down and try to find some suckers? I know this is dumb question but I'm new to all this. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

I think Pawpaw will spread out their roots a distance from the mother plant.Hence the lyrics in the song about the Pawpaw patch.Possibly look for these smaller shoots or plants in the vicinity of the main tree(s).Remember though,that these most likely will not pollinate each other and finding another patch a good distance away to collect more will improve your chances.
If they get fruit like the old guy said,then there are two different varieties in that area.
Yes,get as much root as possible. Brady

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 1:00PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

Thanks Bradybb. I, too, thought it was a good sign that the property owner said his trees make fruit every year, even though animals get them. I was thinking maybe I will try to net or bag some this year so I can taste them and see if they are good enough to try and recreate. I also appreciate the reminder about needing 2 varieties to get fruit! I hadn't thought of that. The good news is that I have a susquana and a Shenandoah on order from a nursery. I hope they will help pollinate the wild one if I'm able to move it???? thanks.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 1:23PM
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Yeah, try and find a sucker growing from the known trees and take that.

If you can't find any suckers, I'd take a look around the nearby wooded areas to see if there are any other ones growing that your friend might not know about. If the animals are eating the fruit, they seeds will most likely be coming out the other end and there may be some smaller trees in the area that you could take.

If not, bag a fruit and use the seeds, but research it, because I recall them needing a long and fairly specific cold stratification period before being ready for planting.

Also, they are slow growing until they reach a certain maturity. So, if you go seed route, you're probably 6 years from getting any fruit. You can buy them online for like $20 and all things considered, this might be your best option, because most will be a couple years old already. It makes economic sense, too, (3 years of water and fertilzer and care is probably less than the $20 you'd spend to get a 3 year old tree).

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 1:41PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

lawanddisorder- thanks. You made some incredibly good points. Afterall, I only paid $25 for the 2 Peterson paw paws I ordered (which I suspect will be far superior to the wild ones) and are said to be 4-5 feet tall already, so no doubt they will put me way ahead. And 6 years seems forever to wait for fruit that may/may not work or may not be any good to eat. But for reasons I can't explain, I just love the idea of finding my own tree in woods just a mile from my house and turning it into a producing fruit tree. Feels a little like rescuing an endangered species (though I know its not!). So, I'll keep my order for the 2 petersons and also try to dig up a wild one or two. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 2:13PM
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I hear ya. I've actually read a few threads on here from people saying the wild paw paws they found in the forest are better tasting and overall better than some of the named varieties they ordered, so maybe you'll find something exciting. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 3:04PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

There are probably seedlings scattered about his big trees, though it will take a sharp eye to find them. You have a good chance of transplanting young seedlings if you move them in the Spring.

Look closely at the terminal leaf buds on his trees so you can recognize the morphology. Now look around on the ground for small seedlings that show a similar terminal leaf bud shape. If you think you found one, look at or just below the surface where the seedling is coming out of the ground, and there is a good chance you will find the remnants of the seed...they are quite large and distinctive in appearance. First year seedlings will probably be 6 inches tall at most. Alternatively, take a good close up picture of the candidate seedling(s) and post here.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 8:40PM
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Speaking for myself I would try it before I went to the trouble of trying to propagate it. Some are OK and some are really OK and some are Great!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 10:30PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

As always, thanks for the help. I really learned a lot from Alexander3 in terms of how to identify a seedling before it leafs out (via terminals buds), so that's great. KYyada, you are right....they may not be worth fooling with since no one has ever tasted them according to the old man who has owned the property for 50 years. But as Lawanddisorder stated above, I have that small hope that I will hit the jackpot and discover some incredible regional variation pawpaw that I can share with the world...though I know the odds are way, way against that. But I've got plenty of room in my small "orchard" so I figure I'll be a year closer to fruit if I go ahead and transfer one now, and if the fruit is terrible this fall, I can always cut it down (as hard as it is for me to cut down a tree!). I'll keep you all posted.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 2:10PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Or,it could be grown and used as a rootstock to graft other desirable varieties onto.England's Nursery has numerous scions available. Brady

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:30PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

I just wanted to update this thread in case someone finds it on a search and wonders about transplanting pawpaws. I ended up digging up 4 wild pawpaws and moving them to my property. Two were just about 18-20 inches tall, one was about 3 feet, and one was about 4.5 feet tall. I dug HUGE root balls up with them...approximately 30 inch x 24 inch. In spite of this, all 4 trees had roots beyond that area and a very large tap root going straight down under the tree. Even the small ones had a tap root as big or bigger than the diameter of the tree itself. The big ones had about 3/4 inch or bigger tap root. There were also large roots running perpendicular to the trees about 12 inches below soil line. So in spite of my very large root balls, I still had to cut large tap roots and large horizontal roots, so I had little hope of survival. The trees were all dormant when I dug them up. I wrapped root balls in heavy duty plastic for travel. In my orchard I dug very large holes and mixed the topsoil about 1/2 and 1/2 with 1 year old wood mulch that was pretty well broken down. I used this top soil/composted mulch mixture under, around, and on top of the large root ball of soil I dug up with the trees. Guess what? It has been almost 5 weeks since I moved the pawpaws, and in spite of all the root cutting I had to do, they ALL ARE ALIVE AND WELL! Even the 4.5 foot tall one, which I had almost no hope for. All 4 trees have now leafed out and have more leaves coming every day. Of course its too early to know if they will make it long term, but it has to be a good sign that they have leaved out and continue to grow-all after being moved. Thanks to all of you for your help and suggestions. Hopefully they will produce good fruit-I'll be going back to the patch this fall to (hopefully) try fruit from others in the patch these came from. If its good I'm a year ahead of the game, if not, I can either dig them up or-as Bradybb suggested, use them to graft onto. I have 2 Peterson's due any day now, so maybe one day I'll create something worth sharing! :)

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 11:21PM
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poolecw(Georgia 7b)

Thanks for the update. Where did you get your Petersons from?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:04PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

Someone contacted me and asked for an update on my pawpaw transplants and suggested others might be interested also, so here it is:
I dug up and relocated a total of 7 wild pawpaw trees (I did 3 more about a week after my last post above). All 7 lived about 6 weeks. Unfortunately, the 2 largest ones started to die after about 6-7 weeks, in spite of the fact that they actually put on new growth about a month after the transplant. I must admit that it was very dry here this summer and I didn't do a great job of keeping them watered, so it could be my fault or it could have been the cut tap root or other factors, but living 6-7 weeks makes me think more about the lack of water than tap root, but who knows. Now for the good news:
The other 5 that I moved were (2) about 3 feet tall, and (3) about 2 feet tall and they are all 5 still alive and well. Two are in the ground and 3 are in 4 gallon pots ever since being moved. They are alive and seem fairly healthy, BUT they put on almost no new growth at all this whole summer. That doesn't mean they are unhealthy....they have the same amount of foliage as they did early on, and they actually still look pretty healthy...they just didn't grow any at all, which is unusual to me but may be common for slow growing pawpaws. The 2 three-foot wild transplants in the ground were in full sun, and the 3 wild transplants in the pots are mostly in the shade.
As for my Petersons, I got 2 10 inch plants from edible landscaping-Susquehanna and Shenandoah. I made a shade for them and babied them more than my transplants since they were closer to my house (and water). In spite of this, one of them died and the other has only one sad leaf left on it and looks like it is dying for certain.
I have read many places that pawpaws cannot be moved, but that just doesn't seem to be true based on my limited experience. Even if they should die this winter I will have a hard time blaming it on the move...surely 5-6 months of life after transplant is enough to overcome transplant shock and the fact that some are still alive and well (though not growing much) bodes well for the possibility of relocating wild pawpaws in my book, though I'm certainly a rookie!
One last note: If you have watched my post you know I looked a long, long time before I found a pawpaw patch, and I was thrilled when I did. The most exciting news is that just this past weekend I returned to the patch for the first time all summer to see if any fruit set there. IT DID!!!! I counted a total of about 14 pawpaw fruits in the whole patch. They were about the size of a roll of quarters now and hard as a rock, but I was thrilled to see them. My fingers are crossed that at least one or two of them will survive to get ripe so I can finally taste pawpaw for the first time in my life! If so, I will be willing to share some seeds. Priority will be given to those people here who have been helpful to me and answered my fruit tree questions this year (you know who you are) and if they don't want them then I'll share with anyone else who asks. It will be way of giving something back to this forum which has been so good to me. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself....lets see if I actually get any wild fruit and if so, how good it is. Then we can see who wants seeds (if anyone). Thanks all.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:18PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

After 2 years of waiting and looking, I finally tasted my first PAW PAW last night. This was even more important because, as you see in this thread, the paw paws I collected and tasted last night were all from a small stand of trees that I already transplanted some small trees from, so I feel like they probably give me a good idea of what my trees will someday produced. Long story short, I liked them and am glad I am growing some close relatives of the fruit I tasted. Now, considering this is the first and only paw paw I have ever tasted, I have nothing to compare it to. About all I can tell you is that the ripe fruits were sweet and I liked the taste. I keep using the word "like" because it describes my opinion more accurate than other words like "loved". It isn't my favorite fruit and I haven't fallen madly in love with paw paws like I did when I tried my first fresh fig 2 years ago. But I really liked it and look forward to having a new and tasty fruit in my little orchard. I must say that I think the often used description "tastes like a mixture of banana and Mango" is incredibly accurate in this case. Also, there was a world of difference between the dead ripe ones I tried and those that were just starting to get soft. The riper the better....even those that had fallen to the ground and were almost mushy...were really sweet and creamy and pretty good. One thing that I have read that the Peterson Varieties have improved on is the ratio of seed-to-meat, and that would be a nice improvement. These things definitely have a lot of seeds, so many that's its almost impossible to get a solid spoonful without seeds. But they come out easy and I didn't find the seeds to be a big distraction or problem. Oh...size.....all these were what I think is on the small side for paw paws from what I've seen in photos. Most of these were about 3 inches long. There were some, however, that seemed larger than what I think is normal. Specifically, I found 2 that were 4.5 inches long and looked about the size of a sleeve (3) of golf balls. Most had traditional, slightly curved shape. I will give seeds to any of the "regulars" in this forum who have helped me over the past years. (we know who you are!). Otherwise, I am willing to trade seeds for almost any kind of fruit tree or plant of any size, including brambles, blueberry, figs, or trees. Unfortunately cuttings of anything but fig won't help because I just can't graft yet (I'm learning, but so far haven't had any real success). If anyone has any other questions or wants to trade or receive seeds, just e-mail me.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 1:11PM
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