Artocarpus altilis

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Related Links
Habit at Keanae Arboretum, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Leaves and fruit at Puehuihueiki cemetary Lahaina Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Betel nut palms are planted along the property boundary.
© Craig Elevitch
When establishing a fruit orchard that takes several years to begin bearing, crops that begin bearing within a year such as papaya (as shown here) can be grown between the main fruit trees to provide an early yield.
© Craig Elevitch
Urban planting of breadfruit and mango provides food, shade, and privacy.
© Craig Elevitch
Urban planting of breadfruit and mango provides food, shade, and privacy.
© Craig Elevitch
Papayas are grown as a temporary crop in the margins between a young breadfruit orchard (left) and a coffee orchard (right).
© Craig Elevitch
In Samoa, most households have at least one breadfruit tree.
© Craig Elevitch
Three of Polynesia's most important traditional trees, breadfruit, candlenut, and beauty leaf growing together.
© Craig Elevitch
Jackfruit trees are used as a windbreak to protect a mango orchard. Tradewinds do little damage to the jackfruit trees or fruit.
© Craig Elevitch
Habit at Maui Nui Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii.
© Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)
Fruit at Maui Nui Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii. 
© Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)

Local names:
Bislama (beta), Creole (vèritab,laba pen), English (breadfruit,breadnut), Fijian (uto,kulu), Filipino (kamansi,rimas), French (arbre à pain,âme veritable,veritable), German (brotfruchtbaum), Hawaian (ulu), Indonesian (sukun,kelur,timbul), Khmer (sakéé,kh

Artocarpus altilis is a large, attractive, evergreen tree, reaching heights of 15-20 m; bark smooth, light coloured; trunk up to 1.2 m in diameter, may reach a height of 4 m before branching; 2 large stipules enclosing the terminal bud, up to 30 cm long at maturity, yellowing and falling when leaves fold or inflorescence emerges.

Leaves thick, leathery; top dark green, often glossy; underside dull with an elevated midrib and main veins; striking variation in leaf outline and dissection; leaves broadly obovate to broadly ovate, varying in size and shape; juvenile leaves on young trees and new shoots of mature trees usually larger, more dissected and more hirsute; leaves sometimes smooth but often with few to many pale to reddish hairs, especially on the midrib and veins. 

Fruit a highly specialized structure, a syncarp, composed of 1500-2000 flowers attached to the fruit axis or core; bulk of fruit formed from the persistent perianth of each flower; perianths are fused together except at base. As the fruit develops, this area grows vigorously and becomes fleshy at maturity, forming the edible portion of the fruit; tough rind composed of 5- to 7-sided disks, each the surface of an individual flower; 2-3 strap-shaped, reflexed stigmas protrude from the centre of the disk and often leave a small distinctive scar when they blacken and wither; rind at maturity usually stained with latex exudations. 

Fruit globose to oblong, 12-20 x 12 cm; rind light green, yellowish-green or yellow when mature, flesh creamy  white or pale yellow; surface varies from smooth to slightly bumpy or spiny, with individual disks ranging from areolate to slightly raised and flattened, to widely conical, up to 3 mm high and 5 mm across at the base, to narrowly conical up to 5 mm long; seedless, some forms seeded. Seeds have a thin, dark-brown outer skin about 0.5 mm thick and an inner, fragile, paperlike membrane that surrounds the fleshy, white edible portion of the seed.

The generic name comes from the Greek words ‘artos’ (bread) and ‘karpos’ (fruit). The fruit is eaten and is commonly called breadfruit.


A. altilis is a crop for the hot, humid, tropical lowlands. Rain stimulates extension growth, flowering and rate of growth of the fruit. It prefers rainfall of fairly equal distribution but is quite tolerant of short dry periods. A. altilis grows best in equatorial lowlands; it is occasionally found in the highlands, but yield and fruit quality suffer in cooler conditions. Good drainage is essential, and trees may shed their fruit when the soil is excessively wet.

Native range
Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines

Tree management

Plants should be set out at the onset of the rainy season, and supplementary irrigation may be required to help the trees establish. Once established, they require little attention or input of labour or materials. Trees generally do not require any training or pruning except to remove dead branches and to trim them to a height convenient for cultivation. They are known to grow and fruit well without irrigation, even in areas with a distinct dry season.

Regardless of the method used for propagation, young plants do best under shade, but trees require full sun once established.

An orchard would require thorough land preparation consisting of deep ploughing followed by harrowing. Approximately 100 trees/ha can be planted if spaced 12 x 8 m or 10 x 10 m apart.

Seeds display recalcitrant storage behaviour. The short-lived seeds should not be allowed to dry out and should be kept moist at 20 deg. C.
Seeds germinate immediately and are unable to withstand desiccation, hence loose viability within a few weeks and cannot be stored.  Wherever seeds occur they are distributed by flying foxes.

A. altilis is a crop for the hot, humid, tropical lowlands. Rain stimulates extension growth, flowering and rate of growth of the fruit. It prefers rainfall of fairly equal distribution but is quite tolerant of short dry periods. A. altilis grows best in equatorial lowlands; it is occasionally found in the highlands, but yield and fruit quality suffer in cooler conditions. Good drainage is essential, and trees may shed their fruit when the soil is excessively wet.

Seeds are extracted from ripe fruits and immediately planted, as they lose viability within a few weeks. They are planted about 5 cm apart and 1 cm deep. 

They germinate about 2 weeks after sowing. Fresh seeds germinate easily, with a rate of about 85%. The germination bed should be kept moist. Seedlings can be transplanted into individual containers as soon as they sprout. They grow quickly and are ready for planting in the field when they are about 1 year old.

A. altilis is generally propagated vegetatively. Root suckers produced by the tree can be used for air-layering. However, using root cuttings is the more common method of propagation. The time for collecting roots is the most important factor for successful propagation. Best collection is during the dormant season immediately preceding the renewal of growth, or at the beginning of that period, when carbohydrate stores in roots are highest. The dormant period (2-3 months) begins immediately after the crop ripens. A. altilis has also been successfully propagated using inarching, budding, stem cuttings and marcotting.

Poison:  In Vanuatu and Hawaii the dried, hard flowers are burned as mosquito repellent.

  Breadfruit is versatile and can be cooked and eaten at all stages of its development. It can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed or roasted. Very small fruits, 2-6 cm or larger in diameter, can be boiled and have a flavour similar to that of artichoke hearts. They can also be pickled and marinated. As breadfruit is a seasonal crop that produces much more than can be consumed fresh, Pacific Islanders have developed many techniques to use large harvests and extend availability of the fruit. The most common method of preservation is by preparing the fermented, pit-preserved breadfruit called ma, masi, mahr, furo or bwiru. In many areas, the male inflorescence is pickled or candied. Compared with other staple starch crops, breadfruit is a better source of protein than is cassava; it is comparable to sweet potato and banana. It is a relatively good source of iron, calcium, potassium and riboflavin. Fermented breadfruit and breadfruit paste are both traditional products. Processing breadfruit into a snack such as chips, flour, pulverized starch or even freeze-drying it are all common methods of consuming or preserving it.  The seeds are cooked with the raw breadfruit or removed and roasted or boiled. They are firm, close-textured and have a sweet, pleasant taste that is most often compared with chestnuts. Both fresh and cooked seeds are about 8% protein. The seeds are a good source of protein and are low in fat, compared with tree nuts such as almond, brazil nut and macadamia nut, which contain 50-70% fat. The seeds are a good source of minerals and contain more niacin than cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans, black walnuts or chestnuts.

Since only the pulp of mature breadfruit is consumed as human food, at least 25% of the fruit is wasted. The non-edible portions are high in carbohydrates, contain more protein than the pulp and are excellent sources of nutrients. Leaves are eaten by livestock and can be fed to cattle, goats, pigs and horses. They have even been reported to be good food for elephants. Horses will eat the bark, young branches and shoots and must therefore be kept away from new plantings. Excess ripe breadfruit, seeds, cores and other breadfruit waste are fed to pigs and other animals.

The trees are an important source of firewood on the atolls of the Pacific.

Fibre:  The male flower spikes are blended with fibre of paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) to make elegant loincloths. The inner layer of bark, or bast, was used to make bark cloth (tapa). Traditionally it had ceremonial and ritual uses, was also used for beddings and items of clothing such as cloaks, loincloths and robes. Breadfruit bast makes good cordage with a diverse range of uses such as harnesses for water buffalo and nets for catching sharks.

Timber:  The wood is differentiated into yellow or brownish-yellow sapwood and heartwood, golden speckled with orange. The golden yellow colour darkens with age. The wood is very light (density 505-645 kg/cubic m at 15% mc), durable, soft, but quite resistant in spite of its low specific gravity. Traditionally it was widely used for construction of houses and canoes because of its resistance to termites and marine worms. The wood is used in Haiti to make bowls, carvings, furniture and even surfboards.

Shade or shelter:  A. altilis is a long-lived, perennial tree crop that provides beneficial shade and cooler microclimate for humans, plants and animals beneath its canopy.

Tannin or dyestuff:  The inflorescence was used in Hawaii to make a yellow tan to brown dye.

Lipids:  The fat extracted from the seed is a light yellow liquid, viscous at room temperature, with a characteristic odour similar to that of peanuts. It has a chemical number and physical properties similar to those of olive oil.

Medicine:  Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums around aching teeth to ease pain. Latex is massaged into the skin to treat broken bones and sprains and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. It is commonly used to treat skin ailments and fungal diseases such as thrush. The latter is also treated with crushed leaves. Diluted latex is taken internally to treat diarrhoea, stomach-ache and dysentery. Latex and juice from the crushed leaves are both traditionally used in the Pacific Islands to treat ear infections. The root is an astringent and is used as a purgative; when macerated it was used as a poultice for skin ailments. The bark is used in several Pacific Islands to treat headache.  In the West Indies, the yellowing leaf is brewed into a tea and taken to reduce high blood pressure. The tea is also thought to control diabetes. Leaves are used in Taiwan to treat liver diseases and fevers, and an extract from the flowers was effective in treating ear oedema. Bark extracts exhibited strong cytotoxic activities against leukaemia cells in tissue culture, and extracts from roots and stem barks showed some antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria and may have potential in treating tumours.

Gum or resin: A. altilis gum is used to caulk canoes to make them watertight and can be used as an adhesive to seal and prepare wooden surfaces for painting.

Ornamental:  Occasionally grown as an ornamental in the humid areas of Gambia.

In the Pacific, yam vines are often grown with the tree, using its branches and canopy for support.

Soil improver:  The tree can be used to provide mulch.

Intercropping:  It is an important component of traditional agroforestry systems in the Pacific Islands, particularly the eastern Solomon Islands, Pohnpei and Kosrae. The trees are integrated into mixed cropping systems with yams and other root crops, Piper methysticum, bananas and some cash crops, especially black pepper and coffee.

Latex or rubber:  A sticky latex is present in all parts of the tree and has many uses. It is used as a chewing gum in the Caribbean and elsewhere. The sap is widely used throughout the Pacific and other areas as birdlime to catch birds for food and their