The breadfruit tree is native to the Malay Peninsula and western Pacific islands. It is a species of the flowering and fruit bearing trees in the mulberry family, Moraceae. It is now propagated and cultivated in tropical regions the world over, where it has become a staple food as its nutritional value is high. Its scientific name is Artocarpus altilis. One of the interesting facts about this tree includes its history. It is however disputed about the way it was spread across the world from its native land. Some attribute it to William Bligh, Commanding Lieutenant of the HMS Bounty who in the late 18th century introduced it as a cheap, high-energy food for British slaves in the Caribbean. While some other say that it was Captain James Cook who brought it to the Caribbean. Well, who ever did it has done a fine job because this tree and its fruit, whether raw or cooked, is high on vital minerals.
This tree is a fast grower, reaching almost up to 85 to 90 feet in height. Its spread is wide keeping the trunk clean and smooth. It has many lateral branches, which further branch out with lateral foliage-bearing branchlets. It has unusually shaped leaves, which are more or less deeply cut into 5 to 10 pointed lobes (long and slightly ovate) on thick yellow-colored petioles. The leaves are glossy on top and have stiff hair on the underside. It bears a multitude of tiny flowers, both females and males. The compound breadfruit is usually oblong, cylindrical, rounded, or pear-shaped. The fruits are mostly borne in clusters of 2 or 3 at the tip of the branches.
Process of Growth
Growth of this tree depends upon the variety chosen, seeded or seedless. The seeded variety is grown from breadfruit seeds and sown fresh before they lose the viability to germinate. The seedless variety is grown by transplanting numerous suckers that spring up naturally from the roots. Suckers can also be induced by opening a root and exposing it to the natural climate. Further, cuttings can also be used to propagate it. Its scions grafted or budded onto seedlings of wild jackfruit trees have also proved to be very successful.
The breadfruit is adapted to a wide range of soils. It mostly depends on which tropical place it is being planted. It has grown successfully in deep, fertile, well-drained soil, sandy coral soils in freshwater swamps, and even in salt-tolerant ones too. There are over 300 cultivars available and each is adapted to a different kind of soil composition.
Care to be Taken
This tree is tropical in nature. Hence, it requires temperatures ranging between 60°F to 100°F to fruit well. It does not require extensive care. Water as per the climatic need, and feed it with a standard mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash (potassium) seasonally. The feed can be increased when it reaches the bearing age. With good care, it will bear fruit from the age of 3 to 5 and be productive for a good 40 to 50 years. Pruning is not important, but as it is a densely foliated tree, cross pruning its branches will facilitate better air and light movement.
Breadfruits should be harvested upon maturity which is indicated by the appearance of small drops of latex on the surface. It can yield 50 to 100 fruits a year. Now that is a lot of nutrition on your hands!