There are hundreds of known varieties (cultivars) of breadfruit in our world today and more yet to be recorded. Breadfruit trees are as diverse as they are vital. Trees produce fruit that look completely different when compared to another cultivar, ranging from dark green and weighing as much as a watermelon, to lavender color and apple-sized. Leaves are long and slender with deep, curving lobes to wide and round with barely any lobes at all. Cultivars not only differ in appearance (morphology); they also vary in flavor, texture, nutritional composition, timing of fruit production, tree size and shape, and suitability to various growing conditions. Crop biodiversity increases ecosystem productivity and human health, further reinforcing the importance of studying and conserving these unique and useful cultivars.
Breadfruit is the signature tree of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and its emblematic logo. The breadfruit collection was established in the 1970s with the vision of creating a definitive collection of breadfruit and breadnut. The Breadfruit Institute is responsible for managing the world’s largest repository of breadfruit diversity with 300 accessions and 150 cultivars conserved today. The three species (Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg, A. camansi Blanco, and A. mariannensis Trécul) and numerous hybrids that make up the breadfruit complex are represented in field genebanks of living trees.
Breadfruit from 34 islands across the vast Pacific—Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rotuma, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, and Vanuatu are conserved, including some that are now rare or extinct in their homelands. The geographical scope of the collection also includes accessions from Indonesia, the Philippines, the Seychelles and Honduras. Visitors, students, and researchers can experience the marvels of breadfruit at Kahanu Garden on Maui and also at McBryde Garden and Limahuli Garden and Preserve on Kauai.
NTBG's unique breadfruit collection represents a global resource to support efforts to advance regenerative agriculture, food security, and economic development. It is being systematically studied to conserve germplasm; enhance its value for education; and make it possible to share cultivars with communities in Hawaii and other tropical regions.