Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pawpaws Getting Press

Recently, I had the opportunity to help publicize one of our great little native trees, the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Pawpaw was chosen as the February plant of the month by Groundwork, the magazine of the Landscape Contractors Association. In the magazine, an informative article by Samuel Seo uses several of my photos from claytonsnatives and discusses the rediscovery of pawpaw fruit by modern gardeners and techniques for growing it successfully. Have you ever tasted a pawpaw? They can be a bit hit and miss, but sometimes they're very good. I made pawpaw ice cream once - my friends weren't that impressed, but I liked it!


I was also excited to get another of my pawpaw pictures published in a gorgeous coffee table book, Fruit, Edible, Inedible, Incredible, by Wolgang Stuppy & Rob Kesseler, published in collaboration with Kew Gardens. The picture is included in the section: Anachronistic Fruits. This part of the book discusses why some fruits in North America seem to have no apparent natural dispersers.

The theory, first put forth by Dan Janzen and Paul Martin, postulates that many New World trees have fruits adapted to dispersal by the long-lost animals of the Ice Age. Now that you mention it, what did animals like American horses, camels, mastodons and mammoths, giant sloths and other huge mammals eat? The most obvious sign of an anachronistic fruit is a tree with lots of fruits sitting under it, rotting away uneaten. Sound familiar? Maybe you've noticed this with persimmon trees, honeylocust, pawpaw, and osage orange. The theory hasn't been proven conclusively, but it seems reasonable: Those critters had to eat something!

It's been great getting the word out on pawpaws and other native plants through claytonsnatives. So far pictures of various plants have been used for a book on Cypripediums, a couple of non-profit websites, a brochure on invasive plants by the City of Chicago's Department of Environment, and a video installation at a Chickasaw Nation cultural center (that one actually paid me!). I'm looking forward to posting more pictures from our upcoming spring plant walks - Hope you take a look!

7 comments:

Janet said...

Phillip- I was amazed at all the Pawpaws in New Quarter Park. I wonder since they spread by rhizomes that they would be considered a bit invasive. ?? It is a nice understory plant. Congrats on the photo being published!

Janet said...

Checked out your claytonsnatives link. Very nice.

Phillip M said...

Thanks Janet! I've never heard about pawpaws being called invasive but I see your point.

Janet said...

Well, let me restate it as they form their own grove... so give them room.
Janet

walk2write said...

I was just remarking to my husband the other day that a pawpaw tree would be just the thing for our landscape. He said we would need two for cross-pollination. His parents had one in their yard for years that never bore fruit. It was a pretty little tree, nevertheless. I'm so glad for you getting to see a great "harvest" and benefit from your work. You deserve it.

Les said...

Congratulations on getting your photo published. I have also enjoyed browsing Claytonsnatives on Flikr. I can't remember where, but I heard that Honeylocust evolved with mammoths and hence the thorns.

Phillip M said...

Les, that seems to work with the theory...