Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Pawpaw Tree, Pumpkin Flowers, Redbud Tree & Pecan Shells


A zebra swallowtail butterfly. Photo: University of Florida Entomology Dept.

Pawpaw Tree

Barry planted a pawpaw tree in Avoyelles Parish, and later he was happily rewarded with a zebra swallowtail butterfly (ZSB). The pawpaw tree is the only host plant for the ZSB so If you want this beautiful insect, consider planting a pawpaw tree.

An article on the AgCenter website, “Backyard Fruit Makes Good Landscape Option,” offers this narrative about pawpaws in a home orchard, “A popular native fruit tree that is sometimes hard to locate at garden centers is the pawpaw. This tree needs some shade to get established but can tolerate full sun after the first couple years. Flowers are maroon and appear in mid-March in South Louisiana. Fruit ripens in August to early September and is a tannish yellow with white, creamy flesh that has custard-like texture.”


A pawpaw flower. Photo: Mary Bowen, LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources.


Male and female flowers of pumpkins. Photo: University of Maryland Extension.

Pumpkin Flowers

Walton sent this email about his fall garden, “[A] friend of mine was extraordinarily successful in raising pumpkins last year, [but] this year not good at all. [It] looks like pollination problem, but why? Do you have any ideas?”

The AgCenter has a downloadable publication, “Squash and Pumpkins” with a paragraph on pollination, “Members of the cucurbit family [including cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelons, and other gourds] produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant (Fig. 3). Pollen must be transferred from the male to the female flower to obtain fruit set and development. Pollen is transferred by bees, primarily honey bees. This is of concern to the home gardener for several reasons. Plantings made in late spring and summer produce male flowers first, but female flowers soon follow and set fruit. Since bees are necessary for pollination, it is best to apply pesticides early in the evening when bee activity is extremely low. Also try and plant flowers and herbs (allowed to go to seed) around the garden to attract pollinators.”


A "Rising Sun" redbud variety. Photo: Monica Havens, Beauregard Parish.

Redbud Tree

Monica sent a nice email with an attractive photo, “Hello [AHA]. I spoke with you on the day y’all had the plant sale [Rosepine]. I found out the name of that tree; it was called a redbud tree, [and it] a “Rising Sun” redbud variety. It is beautiful.”

While the ‘Rising Sun’ redbud tree has nice foliar color, there are varieties noted for their various flowers. Another AgCenter article titled, “Redbud Tree Gives Early Flower Color” describes the different varieties of this small, “Flower colors vary on redbuds. Flowers can be light, medium, or deep pink, rosy, purple, pinkish purple or fuschia – but they are not red. A white-flowering variety, typically called Alba, is becoming more available. Flowers eventually develop into brown, bean-like seed pods that are visible from early summer through maturity in late fall.

Forest Pansy is the redbud variety that is currently popular. It was introduced a few years ago but is becoming highly desired. Foliage color is the unique feature of Forest Pansy. Foliage is dark reddish purple. Flowers are pinkish lavender. Full sun bleaches out the reddish-purple pigmentation in foliage, so partial shade is recommended.

Other redbud species and varieties include Mexican redbuds (Cercis mexicana) with pink flowers, Texas redbuds (a botanical variety of the Eastern redbud) and the Oklahoma redbud (known for nice glossy foliage). There is a weeping variety of redbud (Traveler) that can be found through mail order specialty nurseries.

Redbuds are an under-used native tree in Louisiana. Consider the addition of this small ornamental to your landscape. January and February would be an exciting time to plant.”


Pecan shell mulch. Photo:

Pecan Shells

Shirley asks about improving her potting soil, “I have a question about pecan shells-are they good or NOT good as an additive to potting soil? I notice that there are edible pecan pieces left in the shells. Will that attract bugs?”

Pecan shells would be a good organic material to use for potting, for mulching, or for composting. Squirrels might find the edible pecan kernels pieces and cause damage to potted plants. Also, the shells can be used for barbecuing.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

9/27/2022 8:44:42 PM
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