Pawpaw Natural Area

Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach County

four-petal pawpaw
11646 Ellison Wilson Road
Palm Beach Gardens


Overview Drive up to Pawpaw Natural Area and your first impression might be of a vacant lot tucked between two small apartment complexes. It's small, only 3.2 acres, and scrubby looking. But it is one of the few places left in Palm Beach County where you'll find one of the rarest of rare plants in South Florida — four-petal pawpaw. How rare is it? It only grows in the coastal scrubs of northern Palm Beach County and Martin County. It's rare enough that all known individuals are catalogued and numbered.

History: Palm Beach County acquired Pawpaw Natural Area in 1998 when the owners of a self-storage business agreed to donate the 3.2 acres to Palm Beach County for a park or preserve in exchange for permission to expand its self-storage facility east of the site. Given the population of rare four-petal pawpaws, the county decided to create the preserve.

What You'll See: Palm Beach County classifies all 3.2 acres as "disturbed scrub," meaning that it has the same plants and animals as coastal scrub but is "altered to the point that it can no longer be considered an intact community." You'll find scrub oaks covered with love vine, saw palmetto and sand pines as major elements of the landscape, in addition to both four-petal and common pawpaws. There's also more open land than typically seen in coastal scrub. The site contains two other listed plants, shell-mound pricklypear and West Indian mahogany (which, while native to Florida is not native to this part of the state). Pawpaw was once home to a population of Florida scrub jays and gopher tortoises, both of which have not been seen there in decades. While it's possible that a gopher tortoise or two might meander back, Pawpaw is too small to sustain scrub jays. There remains a population of endangered red widow spiders.

Amenities: None. Zip. Zilch. Plans exist to add a pedestrian entrance, cut a hiking trail through the natural area and add an interpretive kiosk, but it's uncertain as to if and when those plans might become reality. There is parking available on neighboring side streets.

Nearby: Juno Dunes Natural Area West and Oceanfront lie a few miles to the north on Ellison Wilson (the entrances for both are on U.S. 1), Frenchman's Forest Natural Area is to the west on Prosperity Farm Road, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is to the east.

Of Note: Pawpaw Natural Area is open dawn to dusk every day of the year. If you want to see four-petal pawpaw in bloom, we suggest visiting in late winter or spring. Again, there is no parking or other amenities on site. Park on the side streets.

Cover Photo: Four-petal pawpaw, of course. It's not the most beautiful of wildflowers, but you've got to admire something so rare.
Virtual Tour

Getting There ...
DIRECTIONS: Pawpaw Natural Area sits about 0.1 miles north of PGA Boulevard on the east side of Ellison Wilson Road. Ellison Wilson can be accessed from Donald Ross Road to the north as well as PGA Boulevard. Ellison Wilson is just east of the Intracoastal Waterway and just west of U.S. 1.

Photo Gallery for Pawpaw Natural Area

Click on the photograph to see an enlarged image. Click on the name to read more about the species.

Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.