Breadnut Trees in Florida
The breadnut tree (Artocarpus camansi), sometimes erroneously referred to as the breadfruit tree, grows in tropical climates. The trees, grown for their delicious and nutritious seeds, grow in Florida where mild winters prevail. In other areas of Florida, the breadnut trees grow in containers as long as they get moved inside when the threat of frost appears.
In its native environment, the fast-growing breadnut tree reaches up to 50 feet in height, with trunks growing up to more than 3 feet in diameter. The trees usually grow up to 16 feet in height before evergreen branches form. The dull green leaves with green veins grow up to 24 inches long. When flowering occurs, both male and female flowers appear on the same tree, with the blooms occurring at the ends of the branches. Each blossom consists of thousands of tiny flowers attached to a spongy core.
The fast-growing breadnut tree originally came from New Guinea, and possibly Indonesia and the Philippines. The tree grows in lowland areas, often appearing on banks of rivers that frequently flood. Breadnut trees remain scattered throughout the forest, likely spread by birds and mammals that drop the large seeds where they sprout and grow. The trees grow in South Florida and the Keys, where temperatures do not drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The breadnut tree produces oblong, spiny fruits at about 8 to 10 years of age. The fruits ripen between October and May, containing little pulp, unlike breadfruit trees. Instead, ripe breadnut fruits contain up to 150 large seeds high in protein and low in fat that get boiled or roasted, then eaten. The cooked flavor of the seeds tastes similar to chestnuts. Mature trees may yield up to 600 to 800 fruits per season.
Breadnut trees prefer fertile, well-drained soils where they receive lots of rain during the summer. Although the tree thrives in full sun, it does not grow well in areas that experience dry seasons lasting more than three months. Otherwise, the tree drops its fruit prematurely. The trees grow from transplanted containers, although they can grow from the seeds. Since the seeds from ripe fruits require no dormancy, they require immediate planting once removed from the fruit. The tree requires protection from frosts. Otherwise, the fruit, leaves and branches die back.
The seeds from the breadnut tree fruit are a staple in the tropics. The seeds, leaves and twigs of the breadnut tree get used as cattle feed. The wood works well for crafts. The tree also provides interest and texture year-round in southern Florida landscapes and gardens.