The paw-paw plant is a host for the Zebra Swallowtail. If you want to have these incredible butterflies, you need paw paws … it is that simple. So I have started adding these trees in the shady spot in the corner of my back yard.
This weekend, I got two Asimina parviflora trees from Terri at Pietro’s PawPaws. Her booth at the festival at Maggies Herb Farm was impressive. She had three different species for sale, all of which are native to Florida. She had a notebook filled with 8×10 photos showing different aspects of the paw paw story. Terri answered any and all questions, and she had a hand-out on how to plant and care for the trees I bought. Her customers don’t just get plants – they get an education.
Many places sell the Asimina triloba species of paw paw. It grows in Florida, and will host Zebra Swallowtails. But triloba is really for places that are further north – it requires 400 or more chilling hours, and does not reliably set fruit this far south. The species that Terri sells are native to Florida and are proven producers, so her customers get delicious fruit year after year as well as giant zebra butterflies.
Many nurseries also sell paw paws in normal round pots. This is not the worst thing in the world, but it is definitely not the best. Using tall, narrow pots with rectangular edges leads to trees with a larger, better developed root system … so that is what Terri does. These plants are quicker to get established and more resistant to water stress.
Pietro’s PawPaws has a list of species that includes Asimina obovata (big flower paw paw), Asimina pygmea (pigmy paw-paw), Asimina incana (wooly paw paw), Asimina angustifolia (long-leaf paw paw), Asimina reticulata (netted paw paw), and Asimina parviflora (small flower paw paw). If you are thinking about getting paw paws and want to do it right, talk to Terri. She recently bought a domain name, and is working on getting a website up and running; I will update this article with a link to her site when it launches. You can also find her email and other contact information here.