Artocarpus heterophyllus

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Related Links
15kg fruit from trees in Sri Lanka
© Pushpakumara
Close-up of female infloresence
© Anthony Simons
Artocarpus heterophyllus fruit
© Heranth Gunasena
Fruit and foliage
© Trade winds fruit
Jackfruit, A. heterophyllus; Sri Lanka.
© Robert Zwahlen
A. heterophyllus fruits.
© Chris Gardiner
Preferred variety (varaka) in Sri Lanka
© Anthony Simons
A five-year-old tree: Five-year-old tree planted next to a banana plant, Philippines.
© Rafael T. Cadiz
Mixed commercial crops of jackfruit, durian (young seedlings in foreground), and banana.
© Craig Elevitch
Contour hedgerows of nitrogen fixing trees provide mulch within a young jackfruit orchard.
© Craig Elevitch
Artocarpus heterophyllus in Amani
© AFT team

Local names:
Bengali (kanthal), Burmese (khnaôr,peignai), English (jacquir,jackfruit,jack tree), Filipino (nancas,langka), French (jacquier), German (jackfruchtßaum), Hindi (halasu,kathar,alasa,kanthal,chakki,kathal,panos), Indonesian (nangka,nongko), Javanese (nangk

Artocarpus heterophyllus reaches 8-25 m in height; straight stemmed, branching near the base at an angle of 32-88 deg; canopy dense, dome shaped or rarely pyramidal; diameter varies with age, in 5-year-old trees it ranges from 3.5 to 6.7 m; trunk rarely buttressed, with a girth of 30-80 cm and a circumference of 42-96 cm; bark greyish-brown, rough, uneven, somewhat scaly; inner bark thick, ochre; all parts smooth, having either no hairs or minute, white hairs up to 0.5 mm long with tips easily broken, giving twigs and leaves a slightly rough feel; trees produce a long taproot; when injured, all living parts of the tree exude a copious, white gummy latex.

Leaves 4-25 x 2-12 cm, coriaceous, glossy, usually glabrous; top dark green, underside pale green; may be flat, wrinkled or with upcurled sides; arranged alternately on horizontal branches, and spirally on ascending branches with 2/5 phyllotaxis; broadest at or above the mid-portion; pinnately nerved, with 5-12 pairs of veins; those on flower-bearing branches obovate or oblong, those on young shoots oblong, narrow; entire when mature, 2 or 3 lobed when young; apex blunt, short and pointed; base cuneate or pointed; midrib and main veins greenish-white to pale greenish-yellow; at the nodes, stipules fused around stem, leaving an encircling scar after they fall off.

Individual flowers borne on an elongated axis and forming a racemoid inflorescence; male spikes produced singly, elongated, whitish-green or dark green with smooth skin, becoming yellowish and rough when mature, oblong, cylindrical, clavate, ellipsoidal or barrel shaped, distal end with a 1.5-2.5 mm wide annular ring, 3-10 x 1-5 cm, slightly hairy. Hanging or drooping peduncle 1.5-3.5 cm long and 4-5 mm thick, many densely crowded sterile or fertile flowers; sterile flower has a solid perianth and the fertile one is tubular and bi-lobed. Female spikes either solitary or paired, oblong or cylindrical with rough, light to dark green skin, 5-15 cm, peduncle 8-9 mm thick; base with 3-4 mm wide and green annulus.

A multiple fruit consisting of several achenes (syncarp), each of which is indehiscent and 1-seeded, cauliflorus, 20-100 x 15-50 cm, the entire fruit weighing 4.5-50 kg; oval, oblong or ellipsoid, pale or dark green when young, greenish-yellow, yellow or brownish when mature; peduncle green, 2-10 cm long, 1-3.5 cm thick, covered by a rubbery rind and hard pyramidal, pointed or blunt spines. Inside are the fruitlets, which are the true fruits, 4-11 x 2-4 cm, 6-53g, composed of fleshy aril and the seed; aril waxy, firm or soft, yellow, golden yellow to yellow-orange, sweet, aromatic, 2-6.5 x 0.1-0.7 mm, 5-42 g. Fruits contain more than 500 firm or waxy seeds, oval-oblong or oblong-ellipsoid, thickened at the hilum, flattened in a plane parallel with the sagittal, 2-4.5 x 1-3.7 cm, 2.5-14 g.

The generic name comes from the Greek words ‘artos’ (bread) and ‘karpos’ (fruit); the fruits are eaten and are commonly called breadfruit. The specific name, ‘heterophyllus’, is Latin for various leaved, or with leaves of different sizes and shapes; it is from the Greek word ‘heteros’ (different).


A. heterophyllus grows in tropical, near tropical and subtropical regions. The species extends into much drier and cooler climates than do other Artocarpus species. It can also withstand lower temperatures and frost; it bears fruit at latitudes up to 30 deg. north and south, with good crops at 25 deg. north and south. The tree will not tolerate drought or flooding, and for optimum production it requires a warm, humid climate and evenly distributed rainfall.

Native range
Bangladesh, India, Malaysia

Tree management

Site preparation depends on the scale of production and the condition of the land; it should be cleared of all growth before digging holes (60-80 x 40-50 cm) for planting. Trees should eventually be thinned to a spacing of 7.5-12 m, and lack of thinning may lead to die-back. Hardly any pruning is required. Dead branches should be removed from the interior of the tree so that sufficient light is obtained for the developing fruit and to check the spread of pests. Both interrow and circle weeding are employed to keep down weeds; mulching may also be used to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Fungicide is sprayed to protect trees from diseases. A. heterophyllus exhibits fairly rapid growth, attaining a height of 3 m and a canopy diameter of 2 m at 2 years of age. In 5 years, the tree height reaches 7 m and the canopy diameter 4 m; trees 20 years old are about 18 m, as tree growth slows down with age. It is good practice to water trees during the dry season, but the soil at the base of the plant should be raised, and drainage pathways need to be constructed to avoid waterlogging. It is recommended that fertilizer be applied twice yearly -- at the onset and the end of the rainy season.

Seed storage behaviour is recalcitrant. Viability is maintained for 2 years in moist storage at 15 deg. C, seeds kept in polythene bags filled with perlite at 6 deg. C. There are about 430 seeds/kg.

A. heterophyllus grows in tropical, near tropical and subtropical regions. The species extends into much drier and cooler climates than do other Artocarpus species. It can also withstand lower temperatures and frost; it bears fruit at latitudes up to 30 deg. north and south, with good crops at 25 deg. north and south. The tree will not tolerate drought or flooding, and for optimum production it requires a warm, humid climate and evenly distributed rainfall.

Seeds should be obtained from outstanding mother trees; only large seeds are used. Extraction includes thorough washing to remove the slimy coating around the seeds, and removal of the horny part of the pericarp. This improves germination. The seed is sown fresh. Under suitable conditions, germination begins within 10 days, and 80-100% germination is achieved within 35-40 days after sowing; soaking seeds in water or gibberellic acid solution promotes germination. Seeds are laid flat or with the hilium facing down to hasten germination. Germination is sub-epigeal or hypogeal.

It is possible to grow seedlings from cuttings, and clonally propagated plants produce fruit early. Seedlings and vegetative propagules should be raised in containers and arranged in rows in the nursery to minimize crowding and facilitate management. For rapid growth, propagules may be grown in a mixture of compost and clay loam soil, and nitrogen fertilizers may be applied every 2-3 months with regular watering. The propagules thrive best under partial shade of 50-70% full sunlight. Seedlings can be planted out when 20-25 cm tall. Grafted or budded plants can be planted out 2-5 months after the operation, or when flushes in the scion part have matured. Air-layered plants should be planted out 2-3 months after the rooted layer is severed from the plant. The seedlings should be moved by the time 4 leaves have appeared; a more advanced seedling, with its long and delicate taproot is difficult to plant out successfully. In general, propagules should be planted out before the roots grow outside the container and would be disturbed, as this can adversely affect growth and development of the plant.

Erosion control: A. heterophyllus can be planted to control floods and soil erosion in farms.

  The pulp of young fruit is cooked as a vegetable, pickled or canned in brine or curry. Pulp of ripe fruit is eaten fresh or made into various local delicacies (e.g., ‘dodol’ and ‘kolak’ in Java), chutney, jam, jelly and paste, or preserved as candy by drying or mixing with sugar, honey or syrup. The pulp is also used to flavour ice cream and beverages, or reduced to a concentrate or powder and used for preparing drinks. Addition of synthetic flavours such as esters of 4-hydroxybutyric acid greatly improves the flavour of the canned fruit and nectar. The seeds, rich in vitamin A, sulphur, calcium and phosphorus, are eaten after boiling or roasting, dried and salted as table nuts, or ground to make flour that is blended with wheat flour for baking. Male spikes left to rot on trees are used as a salad or pickle.

Leaves are cropped in India for fodder, and overripe, immature or fallen fruits are fed to hogs and cattle. Elephants eat the bark, leaves and fruits.

Fibre:  The inner part of the bark or bast is occasionally made into cordage or cloth.

Timber:  Wood is yellow at first, becoming red, with a specific gravity of 0.6-0.7. It is classified as medium hardwood. It is resistant to termite attack and fungal and bacterial decay and is easy to season. It takes polish beautifully. Though not as strong as teak, A. heterophyllus wood is considered superior to teak (Teclona grandis) for furniture, construction, turnery and inlay work, masts, oars, implements and musical instruments. The wood is widely used in India and Sri Lanka and is even exported to Europe. Roots are highly prized for carvings and picture framing.

Shade or shelter:  Trees planted at a close spacing act as a windbreak and are sometimes used as shade for coffee.

Tannin or dyestuff: The bark gives a dark, water-soluble resinous gum that contains 3.3% tannin. When boiled with alum, the sawdust or chips of the heartwood produce a rich yellow dye used for silk and the cotton robes of Buddhist priests. 

Medicine:  Ashes of leaves, with or without oil, are used in Malaysia and Philippines to treat ulcers, diarrhoea, boils, stomach-ache and wounds. Pulp and seeds of the fruit are regarded as a cooling tonic. Seeds are said to be an aphrodisiac. The sap is an anti-syphilitic and a vermifuge. Wood is claimed to have sedative properties, and its pith is said to be able to induce abortion. A root decoction is used to alleviate fever, treat diarrhoea, skin diseases and asthma. The bacteriolytic activity of A. heterophyllus latex is equal to that of papaya latex. Dried latex yields artotenone, a compound with marked androgenic action; it can also be mixed with vinegar to promote healing of abscesses, snakebite and glandular swellings.

Gum or resin:  The latex yields 71.8% resin, consisting of 63.3% fluavilles (yellow) and 8.5% albanes (white). These resins may be valuable in varnishes.

The trunk is occasionally used as living support for pepper.

Intercropping:  In the Philippines, A. heterophyllus is planted with coconut groves. In Malaysia, trees have been used as an intercrop in durian orchards, and in India the trees are intercropped with mango and citrus. Young A. heterophyllus orchards may be intercropped with annual cash crops such as banana, sweet corn and groundnut.

Latex or rubber:  The latex is commonly used as adhesive for mending broken chinaware or earthenware, caulking boats, mending holes of buckets and trapping birds. In India and Brazil, the latex serves as a substitute for rubber.

Alcohol:  Arils can be fermented and distilled to produce an alcoholic beverage.