There are tree main species of breadfruit tree:

  • Artocarpus altilis from Pacific Islands
  • Artocarpus camansi is native to New Guinea
  • Artocarpus mariannensis is native to Palau and the Mariana Islands.

Let’s talk about Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) tree belongs to the mulberry family (moraceae) and it is a large, evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 feet in height, with large, glossy green leaves and dense foliage, and bears large edible fruit.

Bread fruit trees are also known as ‘ulu in Hawaiian or kuru in Fijian. These exotic trees thrive in climates with warm temperatures and high humidity year-round.

They are native to the Pacific islands, but have been widely naturalized throughout the tropics including parts of Asia, Africa, and Polynesia. Breadfruit is an important food source for many tropical areas, with the potato-like tasting fruit providing a starchy staple. Breadfruit trees may take up to five years before they begin producing fruit, but can live for decades and keep bearing if properly cared for.

Varieties of Breadfruit

There are over 200 hundreds of known varieties of breadfruit trees.

The most common breadfruit variety in Hawaii is the breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), also known as ‘ulu. This Breadfruit tree typically grows up to 40 feet tall with a round, open growth habit. Hawaiian ‘ulu is seedless, dense, and firm with the known starchy texture. This variety is ideal for fries, chips, and au gratin dishes, or for cooking the traditional way – roasted right in the fire!

The second most common breadfruit variety in Hawai‘i today is Ma’afala. This variety is smaller and less dense than ‘ulu, and is used for mashes, patties, and blended dishes.

Other popular varieties in Hawaii are Breadfruit ‘Opunohu, Ka’u, Makaha, Waimanalo, Papaikou, Pu’ou, Ulu Fiti, Lipet, Otea, Maopo and Wailea. Each variety has its own unique characteristics.

THE BASICS

Common NameBreadfruit, Ulu
Botanical NameArtocarpus altilis
ClimateThrives in tropical climates with full sun
Best Time to PlantIdeally planted during their dormant season, in the winter time
LightPrefers full sun, or at least six hours of direct sunlight each day
SoilLikes a pH of 6-7 with lots of organic matter, and loves fertilizer
Pests and DiseasesMost common: black spot (Diplodia psidii), stem canker (Corticium salmonicolor), anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloesporioides) and white root rot (Rosellinia necatrix)
LikesClimates with high humidity year-round
DislikesBeing crowded – their canopy and roots like to spread out, with plenty of room to grow

Propagation Techniques

Breadfruit trees can be propagated using different propagation methods. From the description below you can choose what propagation technique suits you best.

1) Root sucker transplant. Shoots growing from the mother tree are naturally occurring. As the sucker mature to the point you are ready to make your cutting, do a light pruning of the roots a couple times over 2 months to get the sucker ready for the big shock that’s coming up. To do the cutting, find the lateral root and the feeder roots shooting off it and cut off a few inches both sides of the sucker. Transplant to a pot. Keep it moist.

2) Root Cuttings. Dig a large section of a root, approx. 3/4inch wide, cut it into 3-4 inches long, pot them in soil and keep them moist.

3) Take shoot cutting from branch or root, pot it and keep it in humid conditions like an intermittent mist system.

4) Breadfruit tree propagation can be done by seed. However, breadfruit seeds lose their viability in just a few weeks, so seeds need to be planted almost immediately after harvesting them from the ripened fruits. Breadfruit seeds should be planted 1-2 inches deep and watered regularly until they germinate.

5) Air layering. This propagation method works best done on young, immature trees that are not old enough to produce fruits.

First, select a stem or sucker that is at least 3-to 4 inches (8-10 cm.) tall. Find a leaf node on the top half of the stem or sucker and, with a sharp knife, remove about a 1 to 2 inch (2.5-5 cm.) tall section of the bark around the stem, just below the leaf node. You should remove only the bark, not cutting into the wood, but then lightly score the inner green cambium layer just beneath the bark.

Dust this wound with rooting hormone, then quickly pack moist peat moss around it. Wrap clear plastic or aluminum foil around the wound and growing media, holding it in place around the top and bottom of the wound with rubber strips or string. In six to eight weeks, you should see roots forming in the plastic. You can then cut this newly rooted air layered cutting from the parent plant. Remove the plastic and plant it immediately in well-draining, sandy soil, in a partially to shaded location

6) Grafting breadfruit is using root stock from other trees such as breadnut or jackfruit. For example start growing by seeds breadnut trees. Allow to grow until the trunk becomes woody, around 6 months. At the time of grafting, remove terminal bud from breadnut, but keep the leaves to feed the plant until bud produces leaves. With a sharp knife make H-shaped flap in a breadnut bark. Remove breadnut bud at the location where breadfruit will be grafted.

Next, harvest an axillary bud from breadfruit tree. It is best to harvest it after the lower leaves have naturally fallen. Insert breadfruit bud into breadnut rootstock. Close bark flaps over bud. Cover with tape until the graft attaches and starts to grow. Once new growth is established, remove tape and all upper breadnut growth.

7) Tissue culture is recommended for commercial propagator that is high-tech, usually using laboratory to produce high volume of plants. This propagation method consist in growing clonal plantlets from plant tissue cells in sterile media using growth hormones.

Location and Soil Requirements

Breadfruit trees thrive in tropical climates with full sun, meaning they should be planted in areas that get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Breadfruit trees prefer full sun, but do best if some shade is provided when they are young especially in dry season. Although breadfruit trees can tolerate some shade, they will produce less fruit in shady areas.

When to Plant Breadfruit Trees

When planting Breadfruit trees, the ideal time is during their dormant season in the winter time (around December to February). Planting Breadfruit trees between November and March allows for optimal root growth before the arrival of spring and its warmer temperatures.

Spacing When Planting

Choose a location for your new tree that will have ample open space, where the tree has room to spread its roots and canopy. If you are planting multiple trees, spacing between the trees will ultimately depend on your maintenance strategies. With heavily pruned trees you may plant them as close as 25 feet apart. If you prefer big trees with low maintenance and minimal pruning, trees should be planted at least 30 -40 feet apart. In a backyard garden, or permaculture system make sure you plant your tree away from your big canopy trees that provide shade. This will cause your tree to stretch upwards toward the light and become harder to manage for harvest.

Planting

Bread fruit trees are usually planted in tropical climates with temperatures between 59-104F with the optimal temperature range between 70-90F. It is best to plant breadfruit tree just before the onset of the rainy season. It is best to plant young trees when they reach two to five feet tall and have healthy green leaves.

Amend soil with organic material before planting. Common planting amendments include chicken pellets, local compost, even leaf mold compost will help to get the tree established well.

Dig a hole two times as wide but just slightly deeper than the size of the root ball. Loosen up the root ball and plant it covering well with soil and water as needed until the tree is well established usually within a year. If you don’t have an irrigation system in place, in dry season water the tree three times a week with at least a 6-8 gallons each time.

Pollination

Pollination is essential for breadfruit. The flowers are monoecious, so each tree produces both male and female flowers on the same tree at the end of branches. The male blossoms typically appears first. They are club shaped 10 cm to 45 cm long, yellowish green with red spots. The female blossoms are ivory-white. Each female flower consists of 1500–2000 reduced flowers attached to a spongy core. After a successful pollination, the female flowers fuse together and develop into the fleshy, edible portion of the fruit. Pollen is shed 10 to 15 days.

Both types have a very sweet scent that attracts insects such as fruit flies and bees.

The best way to ensure a Breadfruit tree is properly pollinated is to plant two or more varieties in close proximity. This provides an opportunity for cross-pollination, which increases the chances of success. When Breadfruit trees are planted too far apart, self-pollination becomes difficult and the chance of success is reduced.

Harvesting and Storing

Breadfruit trees can begin bearing fruit within three to five years after being planted. Breadfruit trees are able to produce up to 200 fruits per season, with each fruit weighing anywhere from 2-4 kgs. They can produce fruits for more than 50 years. Breadfruit trees produce fruit in the fall and winter months usually between August and October.

The fruits should be harvested when they are fully mature, when the starches developed but before fruit ripen and turn soft and sweet, which can depend on the variety. Breadfruit can be prepared at several stages of development, but mature fruit is most commonly enjoyed. As a general rule of thumb, the skin should be light green and smoother not bumpy, with beige/brown lines between those hexagons bums. If the fruit is soft and aromatic it is past the mature stage and it’s now ripe. If left too long on the tree, breadfruit will become mushy and unpleasant tasting.

When picking avoid letting the fruit hit the ground to prevent bruising. Allow sap to drain from the surface of the fruit immediately after the the harvest. Soak the fruits in cold water for a few hours to lower the core temperature and slow ripening. Store fresh breadfruit in a cool, dry place on the countertop of your kitchen for a short period of time, around two days. Put your breadfruit in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator for up to four or five days.

Pruning and Training Your Breadfruit Trees

Since breadfruit trees are able to produce up to 200 fruits per season, and bearing fruits for over 50 years, it is important to take proper care of your trees. Pruning is the most important cost-effective ways to maintain and maximize the productivity of breadfruit tree. It also helps you harvest sooner, the trees are stronger and healthier, and more resilient to strong wind and diseases. Pruning also allows the sunlight and airflow to penetrate the trees and produces more and higher quality fruits. Also pruning is a way of training the tree to a more manageable size to allow easy harvesting.

A mature tree should be pruned after harvesting as soon as possible every year or every other year. Do not prune the tree when the soil is very dry. Your tree will need moisture to recover quickly.

First remove any dead or diseased or damaged brunches. To do that you need to make a cut at 45 angle at the brunch collar so it will heal and seal the wound and protect the tree. To avoid overcrowding or shading of the tree, you also may need to cut some reproductive fruiting brunches following the same pruning rules, so brunches do not cross, rub or touch.

A young tree should be pruned when it is tree to four feet tall. The main brunch – central leader is cut off above the nodes of four branches, counting branches from the ground up. From the four left brunches, allow highest brunch to grow upward vertically, and encourage the other three branches to grow horizontally by hanging some light weights. As the brunches grows more stronger additionally weight might be needed. Where the central leader has been pruned the top should be covered till it heals to prevent disease or rot.

When the vertical brunch has reached about six feet tall the pruning should be repeated. That new branch that is the vertical leader now should be cut off the same way as before, above the nodes of four branches. from the 4 branches left, one branch should be let to grow vertically and the other 3 branches encouraged to grow horizontally. The last pruning training is necessary when the vertical branch has reached about nine feet tall. The pruning should be done in the same way.

After that prune the tree yearly or every other year to keep the hight to 15-20 feet tall.

How to Care for Breadfruit Trees

Breadfruit trees are long lived and relatively low maintenance. A single productive tree can feed several families.

The trees should be watered deeply once a week during the summer months and half as often during the wintertime, giving about 8 gallons of water each time. They also do not need much fertilizer, but adding a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer twice per year (spring and fall), or organic compost and good mulching can help the trees reach their full potential. Breadfruit trees should be pruned regularly in order to promote strong growth. Pruning will also reduce the amount of fruit that is produced by the tree, allowing it to put more energy into fewer fruits.

Fertilizing Breadfruit

Breadfruit trees need to be fertilized regularly to ensure they grow big, healthy crops. Breadfruit tree fertilizer should include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients. Applying a balanced NPK fertilizer is the way to ensure all nutrients are taken care of. The amount of fertilizer used will depend on the age of the tree and the soil type. Generally, an application of about 3-4 pounds (1.3 – 1.8 kg) per year is sufficient for young trees up to 10 years old. Established Breadfruit trees may require more fertilizer, but it’s best to start with smaller amounts and adjust as needed. We also recommend fertilizing each time the trees are pruned.

Keep in mind, fertilizer is only a temporary solution to assist plant growth and will not solve a problem of poor soil with little organic material or bad drainage and inconsistent care. A constant commitment to improving soil structure through mulching, planting cover crops and the addition of organic material to revitalize the soil on a regular basis will guarantee your trees a long, healthy, and productive life.

Pests and Diseases

Breadfruit tree is a relatively pest-free and disease free tree. Pests and diseases to watch for include whiteflies, mealy bugs, snails and slugs, botrytis and mildews. The most common fungal diseases of Breadfruit are black spot (Diplodia psidii), stem canker (Corticium salmonicolor), anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloesporioides) and white root rot (Rosellinia necatrix). These can be avoided by mulching the tree, avoiding overcrowding and keeping the area around Breadfruit tree clean.

For more serious diseases such as root rot (Fusarium spp.), it is important to identify the problem early on and remove affected branches or roots. If the problem persists, fungicides may be necessary.

Breadfruite Uses

On the natural environment, breadfruit trees have a very beneficial impact. They create organic mulch, shade, and a cooler micro-climate beneath the canopy. They give shelter and food to pollinators and seed dispersers such as honeybees and birds. Also breadfruit plantations are protecting the mountain slopes from erosion.

Breadfruit tree is multipurpose with all parts of the tree being used. A breadfruit tree produces food, construction materials, medicine, cordage, glue, insect repellent, and animal feed.

The wood is used for house constructions, canoes and furniture, and glue and caulking material are obtained from the milky juice. The wood is crafted in beautiful statues, bowls and different other decorations, and the old wood is used as firewood.

From branches with new growth, in the South Seas, cloth is made from the fibrous inner bark. The brown outer bark is separated from the white inside bark, and the white bark is beaten on the smooth stone so the bark will become thin and soft.

Biodegradable plates are a good use for the leaves, or wrap the food with breadfruit leaves and cook it in the traditional earth ovens.

Sticky white latex – sap is present in all parts of the tree and has been used for glue, caulk, and chewing gum.

As a food, breadfruit can be used at all stages of development and prepared many ways.

Due to its high starch content it is often used as a potato substitute. It can be barbecued, boiled, steamed, baked, fried, or just placed in a bonfire.

Nutritional Benefits

Breadfruit is an excellent source of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat and dietary fiber.

It is also a good source as well as vitamins A, B1, B5, B6, E, K, and C and minerals magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, iron, calcium, potassium.

To summarize, breadfruit is a nutritious, calorie-dense and low in fat food that can provide many of the essential nutrients to meet an individual’s daily needs.

Health Benefits

Joint and muscle pain reduced. Breadfruit has anti-inflammatory benefits to the body in part from prenylated phenolic compounds that provides antioxidant properties.

Gluten free. For people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, breadfruit flour is gluten free and it is more easily digestible than wheat flour.

Low glycemic index. Compared to many commonly used staple flours as wheat, cassava, yam and potatoes, breadfruit flour has a low glycemic index.

All essential amino acids. Breadfruit has a higher amino acids content than other comparable staple foods as soybean, rice, potato, corn or wheat.

Numerous studies show breadfruit may have antibacterial effects (due to ethyl acetate and methanol content), may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and support eye health.

Traditional Medicine

In the Pacific Islands the breadfruit tree has an important contribution to the native traditional natural healing medicine. The latex was massaged into the skin to treat broken bones and sprains and bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. Crushed leaves are commonly used to treat skin ailments and fungus diseases such as ‘thrush’. Diluted latex, taken internally, treated diarrhea, stomachaches, and dysentery. The sap from the crushed stems of leaves is used to treat ear infections or sore eyes. The root is an astringent and used as a purgative; when macerated it is used as a poultice for skin ailments. The bark is also used to treat headaches in several islands. In the West Indies, the yellowing leaf is brewed into tea and taken to reduce high blood pressure and to relieve asthma. The tea is also thought to control diabetes.

In Conclusion

Fruit trees are an investment in the future. A little bit of effort will go a long way toward keeping your fruit trees heathy and productive for generations to come.

Planting breadfruit is a wise choice for farmers and backyard growers of all types in tropical and sub-tropical climates. It ensures that this magnificent tree continues to play an increasingly important role in the future of food security and resilience.

FAQ

What is breadfruit tree?

Bread fruit tree (Artocarpus altilis) is a large, evergreen tree native to parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. It produces edible fruit that tastes somewhat like bread and potato or cassava when cooked. Breadfruit trees are also known by their Hawaiian name ‘ulu’.

How can I grow breadfruit trees?

Breadfruit trees are best grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates where temperatures are warm and rainfall is plentiful. They thrives in full sun, but can also tolerate partial shade. Breadfruit trees require well-drained soil with ample organic matter.

Can I grow breadfruit trees in California, Arizona, Texas, or other states in USA?

Breadfruit trees thrive in the humid tropics, and aren’t likely to survive if temperatures go below 50° F (10°C) for an extended period of time. The only place on the continental USA where they can survive outdoors is in lower Florida Keys and areas of south Florida. Breadfruit is a TRUE tropical species, and there are no varieties that are cold tolerant. Established, mature trees as far north as Miami can be seriously damaged or killed by winter cold snaps.

How can I tell if my breadfruit is ripe?

Breadfruit has 3 stages: immature, mature, and ripe. Best for cooking is the mature one when the skin is somewhat smooth, yellowish, with weighty feeling in your hand.

How to use breadfruit in my kitchen?

Use it cooked and cold in salads and snacks, cook it in soup and curries, or use it as a side dish for meat and fish dishes.

About US

We are a family of avid gardeners, lost and then found again in the majestic landscape of the tropics. Each day, we try to share bits and pieces of our journey, so that you too, can possess the confidence and ease to grow your own food in a tropical climate.

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