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Pawpaw pollination time
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Clark County, WA
519 Posts
May 4, 2019 - 9:52 am

This might be almost late, especially for folks in Portland.  My Battleground pawpaws are blooming.  That means it's pollination time.

Some observations, this year.  The flowers on Sunflower barely open, so by the time they open they are already shedding pollen.  From what I have read, that means they are no longer receptive to pollination.  The flowers on NC-1 seem to open a little wider before the anthers mature.

I had to use a fine watercolor painters paint brush to access the insides of the flowers.   First I go to one tree, use a white cup to brush anthers and pollen from mature flowers into the cup.  Then go to the other tree, use the brush to pollinate the flowers that appear receptive.  Then, repeat in reverse, pollinating the flowers from the first tree with pollen from the second tree.

Since they bloom over a week or two, that gives me a chance to pollinate a lot of flowers.

Last year, I must have pollinated a hundred flowers.  On one tree, NC1, that resulted in one fruit.  On the other, Sunflower, there were a couple dozen. 

I also noted this year there were stink bugs in the flowers.  They claim the flowers have a stinky smell, but I can't detect it.  Maybe the stink bugs do, and are potential pollinizers?  I don't don't knowl

My trees are not large, about 8 to 10 feet tall.  I also have a Mango pawpaw that is 6 years old and only about 3 feet tall, and Allegheny that is 5 years old and about 5 feet tall.  Both had flower buds but all fell off from Allegheney.  I noted that Sunflower and NC1 both bloomed for about three years before I got any fruits. 

The flowers are a challenge to pollinate.  The face downward, like bells.  It's hard to see inside, and the branches are low.  I kneel to pollinate the lower branches.  I wonder what the neighbors think, that weird guy out there kneeling under his trees and looking up into the branches?  Praying for pawpaws?  🙂

John S
2593 Posts
May 5, 2019 - 8:12 am

Great post and reminder Daniel.  I finally found one of the packets of my tiny elementary school paint brushes that I have bought maybe 10 times for $1 over the last 15 years.  Fortunately, great skill in painting is not required.  I agree the little brushes are better, because the opening on the flower is sometimes barely big enough for a carrion fly to enter.  Some of the flowers do smell bad, and some I can't detect.  Old people gradually lose their sense of smell.  I do find it fascinating that they are meat colored, for more attraction of the carrion fly.  Mine do get pollinated, especially Sunflower, without my help, but I would rather have 15 fruit than 5.

John S

NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
June 21, 2020 - 3:25 am

I think these little gnat like critters are doing the majority of pollination on my Pawpaws. Photos taken April 21.



This guy a little late to the party but worth a photo, taken May 15. Not many female flowers left at this point as I recall.

IMG_4748.jpgMaybe about 6X the size of the gnats. Maybe 25% of a mason bee

80 Posts
July 16, 2020 - 5:03 pm

I use a cotton swab. But because of the cool spring spot disease caused me to lose all but one on each tree.

NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
May 1, 2021 - 9:31 am

Pollen receptive..8F99844E-8CAC-4069-A8EF-27625645F57E.jpeg


pollen donating..


78 Posts
May 1, 2021 - 5:35 pm

For many years I used plastic milk crates as a seat when pollinating roses under a pair of Kleig lights mounted on shepherd's hooks that I would drag around the yard into the wee hours. The neighbors did indeed talk about me.

Fwiw I finally replaced the crates with a foldable step stool which is stronger, lasts much longer and can be stored in the slot between the fridge and the cabinets.

>> I kneel to pollinate the lower branches. I wonder what the neighbors think, that weird guy out there kneeling under his trees and looking up into the branches? 

Zone 6a in the moraines of eastern Connecticut.

John S
2593 Posts
May 2, 2021 - 2:11 pm

I have that issue, too, Crankyankee. I have stools and have used upside down 5 gallon buckets.  Also useful for harvesting those siberian/Japanese honey berries.

I also feel that the amount of rain makes pollination more difficult for the pawpaw. 

To the surprise of many, places where pawpaws are native, like Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, are much colder than the Willamette Valley. They may experience more cold weather and snow in the spring than here and less rain.  Most places seem to get less rain in the spring than we do.

John S

622 Posts
May 3, 2021 - 12:09 pm

I like to use a folding sit or kneel cushioned seat.  I got one from Lowes or something for $20 maybe 15 years ago, still works great.



80 Posts
June 3, 2021 - 2:27 pm

Because I had bad pollination last year when I hand fertilized them, I let nature do it this year. So far OK.

Started to see some black rot on a leaf or two. picked the leaves and sprayed with sulfur. Will spray with "spray oil" in 10 days. I think this year I will periodically spray and try to get rid of the rot.

Clark County, WA
519 Posts
June 3, 2021 - 4:23 pm

So far I've only had one year of pawpaw fruits, despite starting 10 years ago.

One early one died - Rebecca's Gold.

One has been slow to grow, then a giant maple tree fell on it, and "volunteers" clearing it up smashed it even more (Mango).

One bore lots of fruit, then the tree died (Sunflower).  Rootstock grew, so I'm leaving that to see what happens.  The rootstock tree is more than 6 feet tall now, so who knows.  At the least, it might pollinate my remaining blooming tree.

Another died at the graft (Allegheny).  It grew from below the graft too, but that also got smashed by the big maple and "helpers".  I don't know if it will grow.

I still have a tiny bit of hope.  If either the Mango or the now no-name that was Sunflower bloom next year, I can pollinate the nice vigorous NC-1. 

I also have seedlings.  They are quite small after 3 years.  And a volunteer that must have grown from pawpaw seeds that wound up in the compost. 

Jafar, that's a nice stool!  I should get one of those.

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