Little scientific information is available describing morphological development of pawpaw during seed germination. To provide this information, a study was designed to outline important developmental stages and describe seedling characteristics within each stage. Stratified pawpaw seeds were sown in vermiculite and germinated at 25°C in a growth chamber. Ten seedlings were randomly chosen and destructively harvested at 5-day intervals starting at radicle protrusion. Length (mm), fresh and dry weight, and percentage of total dry weight were determined for seedling components. Pawpaw seeds have a small rudimentary embryo with all food reserves stored in a ruminate endosperm. Dry weight measurements showed a dramatic reallocation of reserves from the storage tissue to developing seedling parts. Initial embryo length was less than 3 mm, but within 70 days seedlings exceeded 350 mm. Twelve days after planting, simultaneous radicle and cotyledon growth occurred (3.4 and 3.0 mm, respectively), but neither hypocotyl nor epicotyl was visible. Radicle protrusion was observed at 15 days with radicle, cotyledon and hypocotyl lengths increasing to 4.4, 4.0, and 3.2 mm, respectively. Endosperm comprised 99.1% of total dry weight at this stage. The hypocotyl hook emerged after 30 days and endosperm comprised 76.1% of total dry weight. Cotyledons reached maximum length (29.0 mm) at day 40 and the epicotyl was discernible. At 55 days, the seed coat containing cotyledons and residual endosperm abscised and the average radicle, hypocotyl and epicotyl lengths were 182.0, 61.1, and 7.3 mm, respectively. It is suggested that the cotyledons primary function is absorption of food reserves from the endosperm for transfer to the developing seedling.
Clonal propagation of pawpaw is currently limited to budding and grafting. A tissue-culture system to rapidly produce clonal material would be valuable for both production and preservation of germplasm. Forced scion wood, shoots from root cuttings, and seedlings were explant sources for ontologically mature, intermediate, and juvenile ages, respectively. Preliminary data indicated that nodal explants had more rapid adventitious shoot formation than shoot tip explants. Disinfestation protocols were developed for each explant source. Nodal explants were cultured on MS medium supplemented with 10 μM BA and 0.1 μM TDZ. Within 3 weeks, 60% of the seedling explants had expanded axillary buds, while no bud expansion was observed for explants of either the intermediate or mature sources. By 6 weeks, seedling axillary shoots had elongated and were suitable for subculture. By 8 weeks, multiple adventitious buds and shoots had formed on all seedling explants. At this same time, axillary shoots began to elongate on intermediate source explants, but mature source explants appeared to be recalcitrant. Explant exudation caused medium darkening, but, by reducing the transfer interval from 4 to 2 weeks, discoloration was minimized. Mature source explants were maintained in culture and after ≈7 months, axillary bud expansion occurred in a small percentage of these explants.