Ridge Road Stories

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." - John Muir

In Doc's Words

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"Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch."

- Traditional Folk Song

The Pawpaw Patch

About 25 years ago, Freida and John, members of the Dubuque Hiking Club, were walking the railroad tracks, south of Massey Station along the Mississippi River. They saw trees lining the woods next to the tracks that had large leaves, some a foot long, tropical looking, with many lurid purple flowers. They were patients of mine and Frieda was an amateur botanist.

Not too much later, Frieda sat in my office and told me the trees were Pawpaws. I told her she was mistaken, the Pawpaws are common in Kentucky, Indiana, lower Michigan, and similar areas but never as far north as Dubuque.

That evening, I hurried to the area she was talking about, 5 miles north of our Nursery. And sure enough there was a patch of PawPaw trees about 100 feet along the tracks at the edge of the woods!!! This is an isolated stand and we know of no other Pawpaws this far north, so how did they get there?

Pauline, wife of a Dubuque Pharmacist, did some research, and came up with a great theory: During the Civil War, Union troops from Kentucky and Indiana were coming up the the busy Massey Station with their pockets stuffed with pawpaws. The train always stopped several miles below Massey Station at a large well to take on water. This the spot where the pawpaw trees are located. We think the soldiers were walking about, eating the pawpaws and throwing the seeds into the woods. We love the story

Note: The Pawpaw is Asimina triloba, a member of the tropical tree family Annonaceae and the only member hardy to Zone 5. Our trees from the patch along the tracks have fruit about the size of a roma tomato sweet with a taste between a banana and a pineapple and flesh like a mango. | Back to Musings