These are the male flowers of papaya. The female flowers would be on longer stalks capable of supporting the wonderful fruit. If you haven't tasted fresh papaya, leave for the tropics now! The flavor of the papayas that turn up in our northern stores is very disappointing.It is impossible to transport ripe fruit. The very slightest pressure soon turns them into something resembling water balloons. Young flowers, fruit and leaves are used as cooked vegetables. The sap contains the chemical papain, much used as a meat tenderizer. One bit or another also shows up in chewing gum, brewed drinks, drugs for digestive ailments and wounds, in soaps and shampoos, and textiles. This was one of the first species to be introduced to the United States. It is now everywhere in warm climates, pops up in Texas where seeds have been discarded but does not persist, and is common in FL and HI. Brevard Co FL, 1/27/13. Papaya family, Caricaceae.