Paw paws and cardinal flowers: signs of autumn’s approach

August 24, 2012 · 1 minute read

If you know where to look and what to look for, signs of fall are starting to creep into Central Virginia. In my column in today’s Times-Dispatch, I write about two of those signs: paw paws and cardinal flowers. I blogged about paw paws a couple of days ago, and since then I’ve had a number of people ask me where to go look for them. Unlike in recent years, this year seems to be a banner one for paw paws. So, once you can identify a paw paw tree, you’re sure to find their edible fruit. In the past week, I’ve seen fruit-bearing trees on both the north and south banks of the James River as well as in Forest Hill Park.


Paw paws taste like a banana/mango hybrid

The fruit ripen on the vine (so to speak) and they ripen quickly. If you see a group that’s not yet ripe, make a mental note to come back later. Don’t wait more than a day, though, because squirrels or raccoons are sure to harvest them quickly if you don’t.

If you want to find cardinal flowers, a fun way to do it is by canoe/kayak. One option: Put in at Pony Pasture and paddle down to Nickel Bridge. There, hug the south bank where the James creates a number of channels and islands. You’ll find the beautiful red flowers on many of the banks.

Cardinal flower in bloom