Artocarpus altilis or Breadfruit Tree is a tree from the Moraceae family that grows very fast. There are two varieties: Artocarpus altilis var. seminifera whose fruits contain seeds and Artocarpus altilis var. non-seminifera whose fruits do not contain seeds. They are closely related with Jack fruit or Artocarpus heterophyllus and differ mainly in the leaves: leaves of the breadfruit tree leaves are lobed, while the Jack fruit leaves’ edges are smooth.
It probably came from Oceania but is now grown in all tropical regions of the world for its fruits. These are very varied in shape, size and skin texture. They are usually round, oval or oblong and are between 9 and 20 cm wide, more than 30 cm long and weighing between 250 g and 6 kg. The hard shell is composed of five to seven sided discs, each as big as an individual female flower. The texture varies from completely smooth to slightly bumpy to thorned. The color is green, yellow-green or yellow when ripe. A variety is even pink or orange-brown (Afara). The skin shows signs latex exudation when mature The flesh is cream colored or yellowish and contains no seeds or many, depending on the variety.
The leaves are smooth, slightly or deeply lobed, glossy dark green upside with yellow or green veins and hairs on the underside. The leaves of new shoots and suckers are usually larger and more hairy than the leaves on older twigs. The size depends on the variety: from 15-60 cm long.
The tree is monoecious, male and female flowers appear on the same tree and the male flowers appear first. They are club-shaped, up to 5 cm in diameter and 45 cm long. The female inflorescence consists of 1,500-2,000 small flowers on a spongy core. They melt together and form the fleshy part of the fruit. There is often cross-pollination, but pollination is not necessary for fruiting.
Oceania: New-Guinea, Indo-Malaysian archipelago
The breadfruit tree produces a large number of highly nutritious fruits, called breadfruit. They contain a large quantity of starch, carbonates, vitamins and minerals.
The seed is protein rich, low in fat and a good source of vitamins and minerals.
All parts of the tree contain latex that is used as glue and chewing gum. Canoes are made waterproof with it and it also serves as birdlime.
All parts of the tree are used for a variety of treatments.
The wood of the tree is light and flexible and highly resistant to termites. It is used for making household utensils and sculptures and for the construction of canoes.
The trunk and branches used as fuel.
The fibers of the inner bark used to make rope and fabric.
The leaves are used for food packaging.
Dried flowers are burned to drive mosquitoes and other flying insects away.
USDA zone 10, 5-10 °C
The aerial parts die at 15 °C
Deep, fertile and well drained soil, although some varieties make do with the shallow sandy soils present in atolls. It tolerates drought for 3 months and very wet soil for only very short periods.
The flowering starts after 6-10 years for seeded specimens and 3-6 years for vegetatively propagated specimens.
Sun, juveniles do best in filtered sun or partial shade.
Very easy, but the offspring are not true to type. In culture they are usually vegetatively propagated, because the seedless varieties can not be otherwise propagated.
1 to 3 weeks, to 6 weeks for less fresh seeds
Harvesting of seeds:
- the fruit is very sticky because of the latex it contains, therefore we recommend to lubricate the knife and hands with oil
- cut the fruit open and remove the seeds
- remove the thin, sticky film surrounding the seeds
- wash the seeds thoroughly to get rid of sticky residue and pulp
- select the largest seeds, they will germinate faster and produce stronger seedlings
- the seeds must be sown immediately after harvesting: they lose their ability to germinate very quickly.
- choose the biggest seeds, they germinate faster and produce larger seedlings
- sow in very permeable substrate (50% peat moss, perlite 25%, 25% vermiculite) at 2 cm depth, flat or with the hilum (the attachment point of the seed) pointed down
- after germination, water daily
- water daily during the growing period
- tolerates drought 3 months per year but looses its fruit, diminish the watering during winter but do not let the substrate dry out
- the plant has to overwinter indoors, he will not do well with less than 15 °C