The papaya or paw paw, is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, and is one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae.
The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes. Unusually for such large plants, the trees are dioecious. The tree is usually unbranched, unless lopped.
The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria, but are much smaller and wax-like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into large fruit – 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long and 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter.
The fruit is a type of berry. It is ripe when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.