Breadfruit is a species of flowering tree, up to 25 m tall. The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. The fruits are 0.25-6kg and very important in standard diet of Pacific islands. All parts of the tree yield latex, which is useful for boat caulking. The tree is monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. It is closely related to Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and Mullberries (Morus sp.). Pollination occurs mainly by fruit bats.
Native of tropical Asia (New Guinea, Maluk Islands, Phillipines). Spread by Austronesian voyagers around 3000 years ago into Micronesia, Melanesia (e.g. Fiji) and Polynesia. Therefore, Breadfruit is not native to the Pacific islands.
Traditional medical use in Fiji
Liquid squeezed from the bark of Uto Buco (Fijian name) is given to remedy chest pain and vomiting resulting from heart trouble. Pressed liquid from the stem bark is employed in the treatment of pain in the maternal postpartum infections. Pressed fluid of the roots is utilized in the treatment of respiratory ailments which include difficult pained breathing. A filtrate of new unfolded leaves is employed as a remedy from fish poisoning. The stamen of the male flower is extremely high in serytonin.
Did you know?
During Captain Cook’s Endeavour expedition in 1769, Sir Joseph Banks and others saw the value of breadfruit as a highly productive food for slaves in British colonies (up to 200 fruits per season and tree). Therefore, William Bligh sailed as captain of HMS Bounty (“Mutiny on the Bounty”) to the Pacific to collect Breadfruit plants. The introduction in the British colonies was not entirely successful, as most slaves refused to eat the new food.