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Pawpaws Make National News--Plus A Pawpaw Riddle

Pawpaws Make National News--Plus A Pawpaw Riddle

Today, the national newspaper, USA Today, had an article on pawpaws, and the California grower I mentioned last week in my California Pawpaw Report. (You know that I like to scoop the national reporters whenever possible.) :)

The USA Today article can be found at:

I also have a Cloudforest pawpaw riddle. (What?) Let's see if anyone can guess the answer(s) to this one.

I recently spoke with someone from another country about eating pawpaws. We both enjoy eating the fruit. He told me that pawpaws taste almost exactly like a fruit that is native to his country and the surrounding region. I found this to be very interesting...

I am close to fully confident that no one, not one person, on the Cloudforest has EVER eaten this fruit.

The name of the country that he is from starts with the letter "Z".

Can you name the country that he is from?

And more importantly, can you name the fruit that he is referring to?

There really is only one correct answer, and the answer...well...makes sense.

Abiu would have to be the favorite to solve this riddle...but then again...who knows?

The following thread was started by Paul on November 29, 2005 at 5:52 pm PST

Yeah, I'll give it a go

I've never tried Pawpaw but I'd guess from the hints given that you'd be talking either Zambia/Zimbabwe (I'm taking both countries 'cos they're next door to each other) and the fruit would be either Marula or Kei apple?

The above followup was added by Nigel(NZ) on November 29, 2005 at 7:50 pm PST.

have no idea

zambia and zimbabwe?

The above followup was added by leonel on November 30, 2005 at 2:02 am PST.

Nice riddle but...


Ok, Let me have try.

My guess is that the misterious fruit is the Monkey orange(Strychnos spinosa) or
one of its close relatives Strychnos spp. .

The above followup was added by abiu(PT) on November 30, 2005 at 2:09 am PST.

what´s the answer?

What was it?

The above followup was added by leonel on November 30, 2005 at 7:57 pm PST.

Zimbabwe is the correct country, but...

Okay, the country is Zimbabwe (That was many countries start with the letter "Z"...I suppose there is Zambia and Zaire.)

But no one has guessed the correct fruit. Abiu, the monkey orange? Major points for obscurity.

I want to reiterate one of the original clues: "the answer...well...makes sense."

In other words, the answer should not simply be a guess, but instead, make sense to you.

(Once you have your answer, you should be able to explain why it makes sense that this fruit and the pawpaw might taste alike.)

The above followup was added by Paul on November 30, 2005 at 10:22 pm PST.

cant read


The above followup was added by leonel on November 30, 2005 at 11:02 pm PST.

Silly :)

Annona chrysophylla has to be the one

The above followup was added by Jason on November 30, 2005 at 11:03 pm PST.

the answer is abiu

it must be abiu

The above followup was added by leonel on December 01, 2005 at 0:07 am PST.


It can't be abiu abiu is South America native. I was thinking annona senegalensis but Senegal is to far from Zimbabwe.

The above followup was added by Thomas on December 01, 2005 at 7:33 am PST.


is it considered native?

The above followup was added by richard in LBC on December 01, 2005 at 7:36 am PST.

Yes, Annona Chrysophylla (aka Annona Senegalensis)

Well done Jason... and later Thomas...(though I like the "Abiu" guess Leonel.)

The answer to the riddle is Annona Chrysophylla (also known as Annona Senegalensis). It makes sense that this fruit would taste like a pawpaw because, as an annona, it is related to the pawpaw.

Annona Chrysophylla seems like a bit of a mystery. All the other annonas evolved in the Americas I think. Did this one make an independent start in Africa?

The range for this Annona also seems incredible. It appears as if it is native to, or growing in almost half of Africa, from Zimbabwe to Madagascar to Uganda to Senegal. It seems as if this is one strong Annona.

Has anyone on the Cloudforest ever tasted Annona Senegalensis? My earlier guess was no...

The above followup was added by Paul on December 01, 2005 at 8:53 am PST.


I guess I was thinking too much out of the box! :-)

The "Monkey orange" is, indeed, an obscure one, but I've been told that it is quite good, by more than one person. It is known as "Maboque" in Angola, where it is consumed regularly.

I find A. chrysophylla very intriguing, and being an Annonacea fan, I have been trying to get seeds of A. chrysophylla for a while. But, so far I have had no luck in finding a good source.

But it's not so strange that there is an Annona from Africa. The two continents used to be one, after all. Moreover,there's another one - the junglesop (Annonidium mannii), which is also a fruiting Annonacea...And if you stretch a bit then we have from Asia/Oceania the ilang ilang (Cananga odorata), which is called Annona odorata by some.
What is strange is why there are so few of them in Africa.

The above followup was added by abiu(.pt) on December 01, 2005 at 10:35 am PST.

African annona

When South America and Africa divided annonas or relitives lived right where it divided so they evolved on both sides. It seems they evolved to like South America's climate better.

The above followup was added by Thomas on December 01, 2005 at 3:44 pm PST.

Vast Ranges & Perfume

Annonna Chrysophylla (aka the wild soursop) and the Pawpaw also seem to share a few other things. Distinct from other annonas, they have managed to spread themselves out across huge and vast land masses, seemingly, without much human effort.

The pawpaw spread from Florida to Canada, from Pennsylvania to Missouri. Obviously, this is a much greater "native" range than the soursop or cherimoya. (Of course, some suspect that the pawpaw spread through human intervention, but doesn't this ignore the fact that so many animals love to eat pawpaws?)

Similarly, the wild soursop seems to have spread out across virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Its range is vast. Considering this wide coverage, and the number of these trees out there, is it actually possible that more people eat the fruit of this annona than any other?

I know. I know. The Sugar Apple (A. Squamosa) has been spread everywhere, and is now eaten everywhere around the world, but does anyone really know how many people in Africa are snacking on wild soursop? No. (I am told that in Zimbabwe it is sold at roadside markets.) It really is a mystery annona to much of the world.

The second quirky attribute that both the pawpaw and the wild soursop seem to share is their tendency to emit a very strong aroma as the fruit ripens. They seem to be number one and number two in this annona department. Do you suppose this helped them spread out? Does perfume work? How many families owe their existence, at least in part, to a bit of perfume? :)

The above followup was added by Paul on December 02, 2005 at 0:04 am PST.

no seeds

Need seeds from this to spread it!!!!!!!!

The above followup was added by leonel on December 02, 2005 at 5:26 pm PST.

A Total of Three Annona Species in Africa?

Abiu, you mention a second annona in Africa, Annonidium mannii. Do you have any information on this one? Are you growing it? One source mentions that the fruit is very large and favored by monkeys...there seems to be very little information out there on it...

As best I can tell, there is also a third annona species in Africa-- Annona Stenophylla. Here is a link to a description of it:

And here is a link with both picture and description:

This sounds to me like a great annona! It is a dwarf that sends up annual fruiting shoots from a woody rhizome.

And yes, Leonel, it sure would be nice to get some seeds of all the obscure annonas.

The above followup was added by Paul on December 02, 2005 at 11:28 pm PST.

I stick with soursop and sugar apple and ilamas!!!!

Since those extremely obscure annonas are so far away I have to eat what´s local, and in 10 days, cherimoyas.

The above followup was added by Leonel on December 03, 2005 at 1:42 am PST.

junglesop and others

Hi Paul,

Sadly, the junglesop (Annonidium mannii) is still very rare in cultivation. I do not have it. The only one I know is in the care of Bill Whitman (who else) and is still small. Information, as you point out, is very scant.

Annona senophylla is new to me. That first link is great. Thanks!!!

The above followup was added by abiu(.pt) on December 03, 2005 at 3:01 am PST.

Pawpaw distribution

Paul, I'm not sure whether it is accurate to say that the pawpaw occupied its current range without human intervention. I believe there is evidence that native americans cultivated the pawpaw, although unfortunately I can't cite a specific document offhand.

The above followup was added by Tom in Iowa on December 03, 2005 at 2:14 pm PST.

Leonel 10 days till Cherimoya?

If I can remember properly, the first Cherimoya of the season in Puebla was October 20?-24 somewhere around there. You don't get any shipped from central Mexico North to your supermarkets?

The above followup was added by Jason on December 03, 2005 at 3:38 pm PST.

that´s right

no cherimoyas in here ever. There are some scarced trees up to the mountains (Sierra Madre Occidental), but have never had one of those, it´s easier to get a soursop.

The above followup was added by Leonel on December 03, 2005 at 4:35 pm PST.

African Fruits & American Fruits

Abiu, I am glad you enjoyed that first link. It almost seems as if that is one of the best web sites for information (though brief) on African bush fruit. There seems to be a lot of rare fruit potential in Africa...very exciting.

Tom, I too have heard that Native Americans "spread" the pawpaw, but it is an interesting question as to what extent its vast range is due to human intervention, and to what extent its vast range is due to other mammals' intervention (eg racoons, squirrels, etc), as well as other factors inherent in the attributes of the pawpaw.

We have just "published" two references to Native Americans spreading the pawpaw, and chances are, we are actually echoing a sentence or two that we once read. Does the act of publishing something make it true? Clearly no. But in truth, in these times, if something is repeated often enough, and it is within the bounds of plausibility, it is usually assumed to be true. Try to disprove what hundreds have previously "said" ! Unless someone has specifically studied the "oral histories" of many of the Native American tribes from Florida to Canada with respect to pawpaw "cultivation", as opposed to casual "hunter gathering," it seems a tad presumptuous to assume that humans did all the work. This is especially true when you consider the aroma factor, and the observation that other mammals really like to eat pawpaws.

My experience with pawpaws suggest that they are very strong seeders (when they do fruit.) Their germination rate seems close to 90%. And of course, their suckering habit allows them to expand locally, such that trees can "walk up creeks." All in all, I have every reason to believe that a pawpaw patch planted at the bottom end of a river, over the course of hundreds of years, would result in a long line of pawpaw trees all along the entire length of that river.

Now pawpaw trees jumping out into the open, growing in full sun? That does not square with my observations...Open spaces would tend to hinder the spread of pawpaws.

But it is worth considering that the history of the US, is a history of a people who cut down and cleared out, something like 95% of all their native forests. When the first settlers arrived, the East, Midwest and South were all largely covered in ancient forests...which would have facilitated pawpaw dissemination.

The wild soursop very nearly ranges the entirety of Africa. The pawpaw very nearly ranges half the United States. Regardless of precisely how it all happened, I am impressed.

The above followup was added by Paul on December 03, 2005 at 5:59 pm PST.

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