Artocarpus altilis
Common Name: breadfruit 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Moraceae
Native Range: Malaysia
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Greenish
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12. This is a tropical tree that requires consistent moisture, a temperature in excess of 60 degrees F., and high humidity (70-80%). It performs best in deep, fertile, humusy, well-drained soils, including sandy-alkaline ones, but has adapted to a variety of different soil types in various parts of its large geographic range. Seeded breadfruit is grown from seeds. Seedless breadfruit is grown from suckers.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Artocarpus altilis, commonly known as breadfruit, is a tropical to sub-tropical evergreen tree of the mulberry family that typically grows with a spreading crown to 30-50’ (less frequently to 80’) tall. Trunk diameter ranges from 2-6’. All parts of the tree contain a latex milky sap. This tree grows in both seeded and seedless forms, with the commonly marketed cultivars being seedless. Breadfruit is an important food source in many tropical countries.

Breadfruit is probably native to an area extending from New Guinea to Micronesia. It has spread widely over time in tropical areas around the globe not only in the Pacific Ocean but also to Southeast Asia, India, the Caribbean Sea, Central America, northern South America and parts of Africa. It is believed that breadfruit initially came to Hawaii in canoes from Polynesia.

Each tree features leathery, pinnately-lobed, dark green leaves (to 10-36” long and to 10-20” wide), each of which features 5-11 deeply cut lobes.

Monoecious flowers (male and female flowers on the same tree) bloom somewhat continuously year round in the Pacific Islands, but often with more sporadic periods of bloom occurring in other geographic areas. Flowers grow on short stems from the trunks and large branches (cauliflorus). Male flowers appear in pendant spikes to 10” long and female flowers in oval-rounded heads to 2 1/2” long.

Female flowers give way to large, rounded, smooth to spiny, green to yellowish-green, compound, rounded fruits (massive spherical syncarps) which typically mature to 5-12” in diameter with a weight of 7-10 pounds. Each fruit has white to pale yellow flesh. Fruit flesh is quite edible if cooked (boiled or baked), with the cooked fruit reportedly having a potato-like flavor. Baked fruit has the aroma and texture of fresh baked bread, hence the common name. Eating raw uncooked fruit flesh will cause nausea. A single tree can produce as many as 200 grapefruit-sized fruits per year.

Famine in the West Indies in the early 1780s prompted British plantation owners to petition King George III of England to bring seedless breadfruit trees by ship from the East Indies to the West Indies in order to develop an additional food source for slaves working in sugar cane fields. King George III responded by sending Captain William Bligh to Tahiti in 1787 on the H.M.S. Bounty to pick up a load of breadfruit plants for transport to the British West Indies. The Bounty loaded over 1000 plants on board at Tahiti in 1788, but, shortly after sailing, the mutiny on the Bounty instigated by Fletcher Christian occurred resulting in a termination of the planned voyage.

Genus name comes from the Greek words artos meaning bread and karpos meaning fruit.

Specific epithet means fat or stout in reference to the fruit.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

In tropical areas, breadfruit is grown primarily for ornamental reasons or as a source of food. Wood is used for various purposes including home construction. Excellent shade tree. Although somewhat commonly grown in Hawaii, it is otherwise not grown in the remaining parts of the U. S. except for a few plants in the south Florida Keys.