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Asimina triloba

david.j.daulton djd at cbnewsg.cb.att.com
Fri Mar 19 10:09:52 EST 1993

>In a previous message, someone states that some common names for 'Asimina
>triloba' are pawpaw, papaya and so on.
>I've heard those common names for 'Carica papaya'.
>Is this another plant with the same common names, or it has received
>a taxonomic reclassification?

Thanks to info sent me by other posters, I can explain.

"Papaya" is the name for the tropical fruit, and is from the
Arawak language (found in Cuba, and I believe Cost Rica too).
Europeans carried that name north and applied it to the not-tropical
fruit that groups in the U.S., where the name eventually used was
"pawpaw" (also spelled "papaw").

Meanwhile, what was the native American name for pawpaw?  Look at
the binomial name, "Asimina triloba".  The genus part, "Asimina" is said
to come from French "asiminier", which in turn came from the native
American "assimin" or "rassimin" (I don't know if this is "or" as in
"both", or as in "we don't know which.")

Which tribe?  I don't know yet.  I will be checking at the Ohio State
University Library.

Today in the U.S., "papaya" is used for the tropical fruit, and
"pawpaw" for the non-tropical one.

BTW.  There are about a dozen species of Asimina, all found in the U.S.,
most found in Florida, with some others extending a little more north.
All are edible, but only A. triloba is delicious (and not all of those--some
indivdual trees give fruit that tastes like turpentine).

(BTW, BTW.  There is one small spot (in Florida) where the ranges
of all Asimina overlap.  I guess one can't really ask why--but it is

Dave Daulton, Columbus, Ohio

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