Trees That Feed Foundation

Propagating Breadfruit: An Experiment

We at Trees That Feed Foundation wanted to experiment with more ways to propagate breadfruit trees. They typically do not grow from seeds so other methods have to be found. Examples in use are tissue culture, root culture, stem culture (also called marcotting or air layering), or grafting onto a compatible root stock.

We’re continuing to look for easier ways for nurseries, farmers or interested individuals to propagate breadfruit trees. We decided to try something new, based on a casual conversation we had in Costa Rica.

Day 1, April 7, 2023. Three breadfruit twigs from our house plant stuck in soil in three small pots. Kept wet, under glass dome for high humidity.

Co-founder Mike McLaughlin simply cut off the end of a branch from an existing breadfruit tree and stuck it into a small pot with soil. He cut off most of the existing leaves to minimize transpiration. He kept the pot well-watered and in high humidity. No root stimulant hormone was used in this test.

Sure enough, the little twigs survived and are now sprouting new leaves and roots. Quite a success! This is a very inexpensive way to propagate breadfruit. The main drawback is that the process is slow … 8 weeks for new leaves to sprout. Marcotting is faster (4 – 6 weeks using larger twigs) but more labor intensive.

Third specimen removed from pot to show root development. This stem was probably too small to get good results.

One photo shows the root development in one of the twigs.

Mike also tested a twig suspended in water only. Rooting hormone was applied in that case. After 8 weeks, unfortunately no root development was to be seen. Perhaps nutrients in soil are necessary for root development.

We will do additional testing with larger twigs and report back at a future date.


3 thoughts on “Propagating Breadfruit: An Experiment

  1. Excellent and highly interesting news.

    We will try that, as well.
    …we didn’t expect this would even be possible, since for example all of the root-suckers we got gifted by local farmers simply died off after a while – which was totally contrary to our experience with our bought micro-propagated plantlets, which practically all survived very well in the same harsh conditions and turned out uniformly hardy and fast-growing – by now they are seven to eight year old, tall, beautiful, high-yielding trees . Also all literature we found is focused on more complicated propagation methods. So we didn’t even try this most simple method. But now, of course, we will!

  2. Based on experience so far, we are having partial success but not 100 percent. Also, the shoots seem to grow slowly. It’s a good, easy method but not quick.

    1. Sure, that is to be expected. But it will be literally free-to-try, and results can’t be any worse than with those basal shoots (root sprouts) and seeds we tried – which grew extremely slow and then just withered away.
      Someday we’ll experiment with DIY-in-vitro-micropropagation.

      So thanks for sharing the discovery that it’s possible at all, which I find sincerely amazing.

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