Wild South Florida — Four-Petal Pawpaw
 
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Four-Petal Pawpaw
Four-Petal Pawpaw  

The only state where you'll find four-petal pawpaw, Asiminia tetramer, is Florida, and the only two counties in Florida where you'll find it are Martin and Palm Beach. This plant is extremely rare. So rare that the number of plants alive have been counted. So rare that both the federal government and the state list four-petal pawpaw as endangered. The problem is that it exists only

Four-Petal Pawpaw

 

 
in sand pine ridges in the two counties, land that is also extremely rare in an undeveloped state. The only chance for the four-petal pawpaw's survival, really, is preservation of as much of this land as is practical. It is a member of the custard apple family (a more widespread member of the clan is the pondapple) and can grow to about 10 feet high. Oddly enough, unlike many plants that seemingly was found, classified and named the moment the first Europeans stepped foot in Florida, the four-petal pawpaw wasn't discovered and categorized as d a species until 1924. It is adapted to survive – and to an extent thrive – intense fires every 20 to 80 years. It produces more flowers and more fruit after a fire than in years prior. It flowers in late winter and early spring, peaking in April and May and continuing through summer. Fruit ripens after two to three months. It is a host to the zebra swallowtail butterfly. According to a report produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999, there were 800 to 900 individual plants found on 16 natural areas in Martin and Palm Beach. A survey done a couple of decades earlier found 100 plants. The FWS concluded that the difference was because of additional sites where four-petal pawpaws exist rather than an increase in population. The FWS report also noted the plant existed in St. Lucie County, which was either in error or is no longer the case. These photos were taken at the Pawpaw Natural Area in Palm Beach Gardens in February.
 
florida map United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) distribution maps for four-petal pawpaw.
 
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