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Polinating Pawpaws

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Many fruit crops need insects as pollinators. Peaches, apples, blueberries, and watermelons use different species of bees, sometime native and sometimes the Imported European Honeybee, to transfer pollen from male flower structures to female flowers. Our largest native fruit, the pawpaw, however, is unusual in many ways, including how it’s pollinated, and poor pollination is often a problem.

Although pawpaw flowers have both male and female parts, they aren’t in synch, the female stigma is receptive before the pollen is ripe. The problem is further complicated in that Pawpaws are not self-fertile, you must have two different varieties. The flowers are a reddish brown color, resembling meat perhaps, with a fragrance designed to attract the flies and Nitidulid (nit id u lid) beetles which are its pollinators. To attract these insects, there are stories of growers hanging roadkill in their pawpaws, and some backyard growers resort to hand pollination.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.