Pawpaw Not Producing Fruit: How To Make A Pawpaw Tree Fruit

Pawpaw Fruit Tree
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Liz Baessler)

The pawpaw tree is a fruiting tree that is native to the midwestern, eastern, and southern parts of the U.S. It produces a fruit that has a soft and edible pulp. Fans of the pawpaw fruit describe it as a tropical flavored custard, in other words delicious. If your yard’s pawpaw isn’t bearing fruit, take steps to change that and enjoy these tasty native treats.

Why Pawpaw Won’t Fruit

Perhaps one reason that the delicious pawpaw has not become a big commercial seller is that it is actually difficult to get fruit from the tree’s purple flowers. Pawpaw requires cross pollination, but even with this, it has a low rate of fruit set. Although pawpaw flowers have both male and female reproductive components, a pollinator is needed. Although cross pollination is necessary, getting pollinators to do the job is difficult and is usually the reason behind why there is little to no fruit on a pawpaw in most situations. For reasons largely unknown, bees do not pollinate pawpaw. Flies and certain types of beetles do, but they are not the efficient pollinators that bees are.

How to Make a Pawpaw Tree Fruit

One strategy for getting your pawpaw trees to set fruit is to become the pollinator. You can hand pollinate these trees by using a small paint brush. You will use the brush to transfer pollen from the male flower parts to the female. First, you need to collect the pollen. Hold a bowl or small bag underneath a flower and tap it to get the pollen to drop into it. Once you have a decent amount of pollen, make sure to use it right away. Use the small paint brush to “paint” the pollen onto the female parts of the tree’s flowers. In each flower, the female part is the central one, called the stigma. There is another less time-consuming, but also more unsavory way to help a pawpaw pollinate and set fruit. Since flies pollinate these trees, some growers of pawpaw fruit hang roadkill from the tree branches. This concentrates flies around the tree and increases cross pollination. If you have a pawpaw tree in your yard and no fruit, one or the other strategies may be worth your while. The fruit of the pawpaw is unusual but also delectable, and worth the effort to produce.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.