The Breadfruit (or is it Breadnut?) Tree Produces Flowers

Breadfruit flower

Update, 18 Aug. 2011: Someone from the Breadfruit Institute kindly left a comment below, suggesting that this tree might possibly be a breadnut rather than a breadfruit tree. I’ll update this post further as the fruit matures, but for now we should leave the identification open. I’ll call it an Artocarpus sp. until the species name is verified.

Update, 16 Nov. 2012: Alert reader Diane (see comments below) also agrees that this fruit is a breadnut rather than a breadfruit. Further, she knows how to cook it and eat it. With both botanists and interested naturalists agreeing that this is a breadnut, it is time to call it by its correct name. I’ll not rename the post, but we can agree now that the fruit shown is a breadnut,  Artocarpus camansi.


Our breadfruit tree is now five years old. I first saw this flower, inflorescence actually, two weeks ago. It is a female. The pale, yellowish structure to the right of the inflorescence is a stipule pair. The stipules will eventually fall off, leaving a scar – a horizontal line between leaves – that is typical of the family. In breadfruits this scar encircles the stem.

Breadfruit trees have male and female flowers on the same tree. This morning I spotted a male catkin even though typically the male flower appears first.

Breadfruit male flower

There may be 1500 or so tiny flowers in the female inflorescence. Zooming in, you can see the pistils pretty clearly and if you look at the outline against the green leaf, you can see some of the branched stigmas (the part that receives the pollen).

Female breadfruit flower

You can also see a few white drops of latex exuding from some of the pistils. This latex, like the stipule scar, is a characteristic of the Moraceae family, which includes the rubber plant, figs, mulberries, and the osage orange.

The pistils are attached to a spongy core and will eventually fuse together, forming the fruit, which is an aggregate like pineapple. Breadfruits are not native to Panama but are cultivated now throughout the tropics, despite the famous Mutiny on the Bounty.

About Mary

I spent a few years at sea, and I never came back from a cruise without having learned something new about the ocean or what lived in it. After retiring to Panama, I began to learn something new about the tropical savanna ecosystem nearly every day I stepped outside. I focused on plants, those marvelous signs of life. Now I'm in my second retirement, living in Sicily. I'm leaving my plant studies online for those who have found them useful.
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23 Responses to The Breadfruit (or is it Breadnut?) Tree Produces Flowers

  1. Great breadfruit flower pictures! Maybe you’ll let me use them for my economic botany class? Oh, and Captain Bligh was successful! He got a new ship, returned to Tahiti, got the breadfruit and transported it to the Caribbean area, although it was never enthusiastically adopted as a food plant.

  2. Mary says:

    I’ll gladly let you use the pictures for your class, Phyto. You can download the originals from Flickr.

    Determined fellow, that Bligh. I stopped the story a little abruptly, I suppose. So now your comment has completed it. 🙂

  3. BFI says:

    Hi Mary,
    Nice writeup and lovely photographs. The fruit and leaves on your tree look more like breadnut, Artocarpus camansi, a closely related species native to New Guinea, and ancestor to breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis). If your fruit stays spiny as it matures, and is full of large seeds, that look like chestnuts, it is definitely breadnut. The seeds are quite tasty and can be boiled or roasted. This species was collected in the Philippines by the French and spread throughout the Caribbean and other tropical regions, in parallel with the distribution of the seedless breadfruit from Tahiti by Bligh.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Breadfruit Institute!

      The tree was sold to us as breadfruit when we were new to Panama, and I never thought about checking out its identification. Well, well. It certainly bears watching.

      A thought – is there any difference between the two species in the color of the stipules when they drop off? The ones from this tree are reddish just before they drop off (here) and when they reach the ground, as here and here.

      I certainly appreciate your taking the time to comment on my post.


  4. BFI says:

    The stipules on both species look the same. See our website ( for more information about breadfruit (and breadnut).

    You can also download profiles for both species at:

  5. Wonderful green photos! I’m interested to hear it’s in the same family as Osage Orange. I took some photos of that yesterday.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Anne,
      Those osage oranges – we called them hedgeapples when I was growing up – are really something, aren’t they? It tickled me when I learned that they were in the same family as breadfruit. When I think about the fruits, though, it makes perfect sense. The one thing I’d do today if I came upon an osage orange tree or shrub is look for the stipules and the stipule scars. Fascinating feature, I think. Are you going to post your photos?

  6. Marvin says:

    Great photos and an informative post. I too find it interesting that breadfruit and hedge apples are related. From a human prospective, hedge apples have no known uses other than as projectiles.

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  8. Dianne says:

    The name is BREADNUT I know for sure, we had a tree in our yard when I was a child, it peoduce a nut when it is ripe, you boil it in salt water when it is finish you peal/shell and enjoy every bit of it

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Diane! I’m so glad to know that the breadnut is as edible as the breadfruit. This tree is still pretty young and the nut that it produced fell off before it matured. I’m hoping for a real crop this year, and I cook it just the way you described. Thanks again.


  9. OLAWALE KOYA says:


  10. Robert says:

    Hi, my name is Robert. You’ll be surprise to learn that there is a growing market for breadfruit eaters around the U.S., and nobody has ever noticed to start supplying this market. Almost every Samoans eat breadfruit. Other than Samoans, other almost every Pacific Islanders eat it too. The problem is, there is not yet a steady supply for this market.

    By the way, the flower, which turns reddish at some point and fall right before the breadfruit appears on the tree, is different from the nut, which is inside the breadfruit itself. I just wanted to say that you don’t eat the flower. And notice that not all breadfruit species have a nut inside. Where I am from (an island), there are about a dozen species or more. They all have different tastes, appearances, stems and branch growth structures, and also leaf shapes.

    • Mary says:


      Thank you for your interesting comment. I had not realized what a variety of breadfruit species there were. It would be great if the US market opened up to breadfruit. It does sound delicious.

      Our tree is still young, and last year’s single fruit did not mature. I’m looking forward to a real production this year.


  11. adjei kofi says:

    Hi my name is adjei i am a final year student of kwame nkrumah university of science and technology, it will interest you to know that i am working on breadfruit as my project.
    I am using the powder as meat filler

  12. Derek Went says:

    Hi Mary. I was working on some information for a blog post on my FB work page about Breadnut when I came across your entry here. You might find my post interesting reading and useful for getting to know your Breadnuts better. I have been eating and enjoying them all my life.

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  14. Satya says:

    What is the best way to cook the male flower? Any ideas?

  15. Alice says:

    Hi, I’d just like to ask a question 🙂 Do the flowers fall after they’ve turned to dark brown with age? Why is this so? I will very much appreciate your reply 🙂 Good day!

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