Where Does the Breadfruit Tree Grow?
The breadfruit tree is found in the South Pacific islands and, to a lesser, degree, in other parts of the tropics. It is an extremely handsome tree, growing up to 60 feet high. The oval leaves are a pleasant, glossy green and quite large.
There are two distinct forms of breadfruit, one seedless and the other containing many seeds which, when boiled or roasted, taste much like chestnuts. The breadfruit, which contains a considerable amount of starch, is not really a fruit in the popular sense and is rarely eaten raw. It can be boiled or baked, served with salt, butter or syrup, and even sliced and fried like potatoes.
Breadfruit, an equatorial lowland species, grows best below elevations of 650 metres (2,130 ft), but is found at elevations of 1,550 metres (5,090 ft). Its preferred rainfall is 1,500–3,000 millimetres (59–118 in) per year. Preferred soils are neutral to alkaline (pH of 6.1-7.4) and either sand, sandy loam, loam or sandy clay loam. Breadfruit is able to grow in coral sands and saline soils.
Ancestors of the Polynesians found the trees growing in northwest New Guinea around 3,500 years ago. They gave up the rice cultivation they had brought with them from Taiwan, and raised breadfruit wherever they went in the Pacific. (Easter Island and New Zealand are too cold to support its cultivation.)
Their ancient eastern Indonesian cousins spread the plant west and north through insular and coastal Southeast Asia. In historical times, the trees have been widely planted in tropical regions elsewhere, including the Caribbean. In addition to the fruit serving as a staple food in many cultures, the trees’ light, sturdy timber has been used for outriggers, ships and houses in the tropics.