Dealing WitH pawpaw Pests And Diseases

Learn how to navigate environmental problems as they arise

As a native plant, Paw Paw is mostly unaffected by pests and diseases. Those it does encounter, it can usually ward off without cause for concern. That being said, there are a few pests to keep an eye out for in your orchard.

Pawpaw Diseases

All plants are effected by disease to some degree. Native plants tend to be less effected by them as they have evolved along side the diseases present in their home range. Paw paw, being a native plant, is effected by a few diseases but very rarely to a degree that is cause for concern.

Not so Fun Fun-gi

There are a few different fungi that can effect pawpaw, but are not usually detrimental to a high degree. Most commonly, tan spots can be found on the leaves or dark brown to black spots on the fruit. The black spots on the fruit can lead to the fruit cracking as it enlarges. This is common in most fruit production and is not cause for concern.

Nutrients Deficiency

Paw Paws are not predisposed to have any nutrients deficiencies. Easily adaptable to most soils in its (native range) *hyper link to map of native range* pawpaw most often will grow fine. While establishing a young orchard, a high nitrogen fertilizer should be used to increase growth. Also, applications of phosphorus and potassium in the spring and early summer will help with increased fruit set. This should be carefully monitored as too many fruit will easily break the soft wood branches of the tree.

Rows of mature pawpaw trees in a grassy field. Image taken by Perry Pawpaws/Perry Permaculture.
pawpaw native range
Paw Paw Native Range

Pawpaw Pests & Bugs

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly: Paw Paw is the primary host of this beautiful butterfly. Zebra Swallowtails are also endangered, so there are actually people who plant these trees solely to attract them. As a pest their larvae only feed on tender new growth of the tree. This is almost never an economic concern and should mostly be watched on young seedlings.

Paw Paw Peduncle Borer: The peduncle borer is a native moth and is a fairly common pawpaw pest. Their larvae will tunnel into the stem of the flower (peduncle) which will kill the flower. In a normal year, this will thin the fruit set, which is actually beneficial. Although in a bad year, they can ruin a whole crop.

Paw Paw Webworm: The webworm is another one of the few pawpaw pests and will pull the leaves at the end of branches together as shelter. This can be unsightly but is not much cause for concern. It normally happens late in the season when growth for the year has finished.

For more information check out Peterson Paw Paws website. The linked page on Neal’s website has great information about pawpaw pests. Neal Peterson is a leading paw paw breeder and has released seven of the most sought after varieties. Did you know Perry Paw Paws is a license propagator of Neal’s varieties? Check out the link below to shop Peterson paw paw varieties.

You can also find more information from Kentucky State University. KSU has one of the leading paw paw research programs in the county. Both of these sources are a wealth of information.

Pawpaw Pests and disease- zebra swallowtail butterfly
Zebra Swallowtail Butterly- Obligate Host Paw Paw

Unique Difficulties in Michigan

Some people are surprised to find out they can grow paw paws in Michigan. Their beliefs are quickly changed when they realize that Paw Paw, Michigan and the Paw Paw river are both named after the Paw Paw tree/fruit.

The only concern we see here in Michigan is that we are at the northern end of their growing zone. As long as the trees are planted in the lower half of the lower peninsula or along the fruit belt on the west side of the state, there are no unique concerns to the ability of the tree to grow strong and healthy in Michigan. The same pest and disease pressure applies in our state as it would further south. This pressure being remarkably low as the tree is native and has evolved alongside the pests and diseases present here.

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