The North American Indians called this plant assimin and ate its large fruit. Apparently the fruit reminded European settlers of tropical papaw or pawpaw (Carica papaya), so they used the same name. However, the two plants are unrelated, and the North American pawpaw is in fact related to a completely different tropical species, one of the custard-apples, Annona cherimola, which has several common names in English: cherimoya,chirimoyo, momona and kelemoio. In North America the range of Asimina triloba covers the deciduous forests of the east, as far north as southern Canada.
The fruit is quite exceptional for a temperate zone species. It looks like a short fat banana and weighs from a few ounces to half a kilo. The taste has been described as like a banana with a trace of pineapple, mango or strawberry, depending on the variety. At the beginning of the last century there were about 100 varieties in cultivation but over half of them have disappeared. When the supermarket culture conquered America these delicious fruit disappeared, being so difficult to keep fresh.
The two trees growing near the Juhlapaikka (Festival Area) at Mustila came as seeds from the northern extreme of the species range, in Michigan, and were planted early this century. They have grown very slowly but, to the surprise of the Arboretum staff, have wintered well so far. Only time will show whether they will ever produce flowers or fruit, but even now the large drooping leaves are a pleasure to behold.