[nafex] The heartbreak of grafted pawpaws

Louis Pittman lpittman at murraystate.edu
Mon Nov 23 08:37:10 EST 2020


The late John H. Gordon, Jr. opined, back in the 1990s, that if he were 30
years  younger and starting over, that he would, rather than outplant
grafted pawpaws, select the largest-leaved seedlings of named selections
and plant those out.  Pawpaw fruits from named-parentage seedlings are
quite similar in most respects to those of the parent variety.  Coming from
an orchard with multiple superior varieties to serve as potential parents,
resulting seedlings would certainly have a genetic 'head-start' with regard
to fruit quality &/or productivity.

I've experienced death &/or decline/regression of pawpaw grafts over a few
years after transplant - and even when grafted into well-established
seedlings.
I've largely lost most of my desire to consume much pawpaw fruit, but do
have a half-dozen or so named-parentage seedlings planted in a low spot
alongside my driveway, with a few named varieties grafted in here and there
- at this point, I can't even identify the grafts or the varieties, though
I know Mango and Overleese are in there somewhere.
Still, periodically, sections of a tree will die out - and if that was a
graft... it's gone.

Many of the pawpaws I've outplanted here were either 'imprisoned' for a
couple of years in 20 oz (or even smaller!) styrofoam cups or in
mass-plantings in 3-gallon pots.  I have just whacked off the masses of
circling roots in the bottom and transplanted, just as they're breaking
dormancy; again, there is nothing magical about a taproot, on any species.
No artificial shade provided, and even those in full sun, not under a
canopy of larger trees, have done well.

Lucky Pittman

On Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 10:34 PM Fred Bruns <r.fred.bruns at gmail.com> wrote:

> One solution might be to plant seeds from a known variety and hope that at
> least some of the seedlings are similar to the parent.  I have seeds from
> Shenandoah with the male parent probably being Pennsylvania Golden.
>
> I had a grafted tree fail to sprout one spring.  It was fairly large, about
> 10 feet wide and 15 feet tall.  It didn't produce suckers after the top
> died, so I presume the roots died during the fall or winter.
>
> For what it's worth, you can find wild pawpaws near just about every stream
> here in central Indiana.   The underlying rock is limestone, so I doubt
> they require acidic soil.
>
> On Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 3:40 PM Mike Levine <mlevine at umich.edu> wrote:
>
> > Sounds like your are mostly doing the right things.
> > Only 1-2 year old seedlings need shade.  If they are grafted they ready
> for
> > full sun, but want regular irrigation.  I find the best time to
> transplant
> > is after they have leafed out,  but before the leaves are full size.
> > What is your soil texture?  If it's very well drained maybe water more
> > often or more deeply?  They don't like to dry out too much
> > Have you checked your pH?  Some folks say it needs acidic soil,  but I
> > haven't had an issue with our alkaline soils.
> > I hope we can help figure out why they are dying.
> >
> > Best,
> > Mike Levine
> > www.natureandnurtureseeds.com
> >
> > On Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 2:42 PM DB <pogohome at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > Two possibilities.  Boulders or high water.  I have both.   I have two
> > > spots where water will raise to the top and stay for weeks or months.
> I
> > > now plant raised mounds.
> > >
> > > On Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 1:33 PM Elizabeth Hilborn <ehilborn at mebtel.net>
> > > wrote:
> > >
> > > > I planted my first pawpaws in 2009, I ordered the superior Peterson
> > > > pawpaw varieties directly from Neil himself. One of four survived - a
> > > > Shenandoah that was vigorous until 2015, then visibly declined. I
> > > > removed the dead tree this summer. My working hypothesis was that the
> > > > tree suffered a pruning injury back in 2013 or 2014 that became
> > infected
> > > > with fungus. That Shenandoah was an outlier, but it is the only
> grafted
> > > > tree that has ever successfully matured fruit for me. It showed me
> how
> > > > delicious selected pawpaws can be.
> > > >
> > > > Every other grafted pawpaw I have planted (about 16 of them) has died
> > > > but for two five-year-old (at site) trees that are still less than 16
> > > > inches high.
> > > >
> > > > The typical scenario is that the plant will sit for a few years in my
> > > > artificially shaded site as it becomes established. Then in its third
> > or
> > > > fourth year at site it starts rapid growth. Within a year to three
> > years
> > > > of putting on height, it flowers, maybe begins to set fruit (they do
> > not
> > > > always get this old) then midsummer, the leaves suddenly wilt and the
> > > > tree dies within a few months. Post mortems reveal seemingly healthy
> > > > roots, no trunk lesions, no discoloration of cambium.  No clue.
> > > >
> > > > The kicker is that I have healthy seedlings all over the place. Some
> > > > seedlings are seven years old, volunteers in the woods where I tossed
> > > > overripe fruit. Some were planted intentionally. The rootstock
> sprouts
> > > > well if I leave it and seems healthy. Rootstock has started producing
> > > > fruit (not very good fruit). I have divided rootstock from dead
> grafted
> > > > trees to start new patches with the hope of later grafting. I have
> not
> > > > seen remaining rootstock, divided rootstock or seedlings die like the
> > > > grafted varieties.
> > > >
> > > > How I care for them:
> > > >
> > > > I water attentively for a couple years after planting, then only when
> > > > weather is unusually dry. I shade the young grafted trees for two -
> > > > three years at site. I only plant trees in spring. I have tried
> > planting
> > > > at ground level and recently higher in mounds to discourage root rot
> > (no
> > > > indication of root rot, just varying procedures).
> > > >
> > > > I plant with no amendments in soil, but top with compost around the
> > > > site. The trunks are not smothered.
> > > >
> > > > This year, I transferred soil from a native pawpaw patch in the woods
> > to
> > > > the struggling small grafted trees in the hope they would get
> something
> > > > they needed. They still are struggling. I will see next year.
> > > >
> > > > Any ideas? Has anyone else dealt with this?
> > > >
> > > > Pawpawless in central NC zone 7a
> > > >
> > > > Elizabeth
> > > >
> > > > --
> > > > Elizabeth Hilborn, DVM
> > > > Bee Well Mobile Veterinary Services, PLLC
> > > > beewellvet.com
> > > >
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