The Climatron is home to nearly 3,000 plants, but none are quite as remarkable as Artocarpus heterophyllus. Better known as Jackfruit, this tropical tree stands out for a very big reason: it bears the largest fruits of any tree in the world.
What is a Jackfruit?
Artocarpus heterophyllus is native to India and Malaysia—but is grown in tropical regions throughout Asia, Africa, South and Central America. The tree thrives in warm, sunny, humid conditions. Its canopy can reach heights of 30 to 70 feet.
Terms to Know
Jackfruit trees are both cauliflorous and monoecious.
Cauliflorous: Fruits and flowers grow on short stems from the trunk or large branches. Cacao and the American Redbud are other well-known plants with this botanical trait.
Monoecious: Male and female flowers grow on separate flower heads from the same tree. This allows a single tree to self-pollinate or cross-pollinate. Corn is also monoecious.
The tree’s melon-shaped fruits are often more than a foot long, and typically weigh between 10 and 35 pounds (although some fruits have been known to weigh up to 80 pounds). Mature fruit have a hard, green-yellow rind surrounding a fibrous interior. Seeds are surrounded by a sweet yellow flesh.
While delicious enough to eat on its own, the fruit is often used as a meat substitute because its texture is similar to pork or chicken. Some people also eat the seeds for added nutrition.
Jackfruit in the Climatron
The Climatron is the perfect place to display this tropical tree, because of its year-round warm, humid environment. Our jackfruit tree grows on the southwest side of the Climatron, near other economically important plants such as cacao, papaya, and pineapple.
Jackfruit is typically wind and insect pollinated, of which the Climatron has very little of either. So in the past our tree would produce very little, if any, fruit. Horticulturist Erin Sullivan has been working to change that. She began by opening up the canopy to allow more light to reach the parts of the tree where the fruit forms. She then hand-pollinated the jackfruit, with promising results. The tree produced two mature fruits in 2017, with several more on the way.
As a reminder, we ask that visitors do not pick, collect, or eat plants, seeds, flowers, fruits or vegetables anywhere on Garden grounds. But taking photos is free and encouraged. So next time you’re in the Climatron, look up and enjoy this wondrously large tropical fruit.
Cassidy Moody – Digital Media Specialist