Hawaiian Name(s): ‘ulu

Scientific Name: Artocarpus altilis

Vernacular Name: breadfruit

Family: Moraceae

Status: Polynesian introduction (not naturalized)

Authority: (Parkinson) Fosberg

Description: Trees, grow up to 30 ft. with diameter up to 4 ft.

Habitat A. altilis is not considered naturalized but is cultivated in hot, moist areas (Lucas 1982:20; Wagner et al. 1990:14).

Medicines: To treat koko‘ino (bad blood), one can combine the bark of ‘ulu with that of ‘ahakea (Bobea spp.), ‘ohi‘a (Metrosideros spp.), ‘uhaloa (Waltheria indica), ‘auko‘i (Senna occidentalis) and kō kea (white sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum) along with the flowers and leaves of ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens spp.); these items are mixed into a liquid form and to be taken three times daily (Chun 1992:38–39). ‘Ulu, especially the sap, is used as a secondary ingredient in numerous other remedies (see other plants).

Non Medicinal Uses: Large fruit eaten and made into poi (Abbott 1992:35: Malo 1951:21); sweet dish made from ulu and and coconut (niu) cream (Krauss 1993:11). It is said that the original ulu maika was disk cut from immature breadfruit (Krauss 1993:94). The lightweight wood used for drums (pahu) (Abbott 1992:119), surfboards (papa he‘enalu) (Krauss 1993:96); house doors and canoes (Kamakau 1976:103, 118; Malo 1951:21). Trunks used to make poi boards (papa ku‘i ‘ai) (Krauss 1993:18). Inner bark fibers for a low–grade kapa (Abbott 1992:51; Malo 1951:48). A yellow-brown dye is made from male flowers (Krauss 1993:67); sap for birdlime and leaves as sandpaper (Handy et al. 192:154); used on hula altars (kuahu) (Emerson 1909:20). Sap as gum from stem chewed by children, and also used as glue to join gourds to make ipu heke (Handy et al. 1972:154). In the Ethnology Collection at Bishop Museum there is a post-contact example of the wood made into a bowl.

Specific gravity of wood: 0.27

Famous Locations:


`Ōlelo Noeau: [I] ‘A‘ohe ‘ulu e loa‘a i ka pokole o ka lou. No breadfruit can be reached when the picking stick is too short. There is no success without preparation. [II] E lawe i ke o, he hinana ka i‘a kuhi lima. Take vegetable food; the hinana is a fish that can be caught in the hand. A suggestion to take taro, poi, potato, or breadfruit on the journey and not to worry about meats, which can be found along the way. First uttered by Pele in a chant about the winds of Kaua‘i. [III] Halau Lahaina, malu i ka ‘ulu. Lahaina is like a large house shaded by breadfruit trees. [IV] Hele no ka wai, hele no ka ‘ala, wali ka ‘ulu o Halepua‘a. The water flows, the smooth stone [pounder] works, and the breadfruit of Halepua‘a is well mixed [into poi]. Everything goes smoothly when one is prosperous. A play on wai (water) and ‘ala (smooth stone). ‘Ala commonly refers to cash. In later times, Hele no ka wai, hele no ka ‘ala came to refer to a generous donation. Halepua‘a is a place in Puna, Hawai‘i. [V] He ‘ulu ‘a‘ai‘ole; he ha‘ule wale i ka makani. It is a breadfruit that does not hold to the tree; it falls easily with the wind. Said of a person whose loyalty is doubtful–ha can be swayed to desert his chief. [VI] Hua‘i ka ‘ulu o Lele i ka makani Kona. The breadfruit of Lele is exposed by the Kona wind. Hidden matters are exposed in time of anger. When the Kona wind blows, the leaves of the trees are blown off to expose the fruit. [VII] I ke alo no ka ‘ulu a hala. The breadfruit was just in front and it was missed. [VIII] Ka ‘ai ki‘o‘e la‘au. The food reached for with a stick. Said of the breadfruit, which grows high on the tree. [IX] Ka ‘ai nana i luna. The food that requires looking up to. Said of the breadfruit, which grows on the tree, in contrast with taro, sweet potato, and yam, which grow underground. [X] Ka ua hehi ‘ulu o Pi‘ihonua. The rain that treads on the breadfruit leaves of Pi‘ihonua. Refers to Pi‘ihonua. [XI] Ka ‘ulu loa‘a ‘ole i ka lou ‘ia. The breadfruit that even a pole cannot reach. Said of a person of high rank.[XII] Ku ka ule, he‘e ka laho. The penis stands, the scrotum sags. This expression is not meant to be vulgar. When the ule or poule (breadfruit blossom) appears, it is the sign of the fruiting season. The young breadfruits first appear upright, and as the fruit grows larger its stem bends so that it hang downward. [XIII] Lalau aku ‘oe i ka ‘ulu i ka wekiu, i ke alo no ka ‘ulu, a hala. You reach for the breadfruit away at the top and miss the one in front of you. Sometimes one reaches afar misses the opportunity that is right before him. Once Kalakaua promised to give a better position to Kama‘iopili of Maui, but then forgot his promise. One day, while playing billiards with the king, Kama‘iopili purposely played very badly and exclaimed, "I ke alo no ka ‘ulu, a hala," whenever he missed the cue ball (‘ulu). This puzzled the king, and when the game was over, he asked a man who knew all the old sayings what Kama‘iopili had meant. The king was told that Kama‘iopili was reminding him that others had been rewarded with good positions, but that the man right in front of him, Kama‘iopili, had been forgotten. [XIV] Mai lou i ka ‘ulu i luna lilo, o lou hewa i ka ‘a‘ai‘ole; eia no ka ‘ulu i ke alo. Do not hook the breadfruit away up above lest you hook an imperfect one; take the one in front of you. Why reach afar for a mate? Choose one from among your own acquaintances. [XV] Mai nana i ka ‘ulu o waho, ‘a‘ohe ia nau; e nana no i ka ‘ulu i ke alo, nau ia. Never mind looking for the breadfruit away out, that is not for you; look at the breadfruit in front of you, that is yours. Be satisfied with what you have. [XVI] Moku i ka ‘ohe a Kaha‘i. Cut off by the bamboo knife of Kaha‘i. Said of any complete severing. Kaha‘i was a chief who traveled afar. He is credited with introducing the first breadfruit plant into the islands. [XVII] Nana no a ka ‘ulu i paki kepau. Look for the gummy breadfruit. Advice to a young girl–Look for a man who has substance, like gummy breadfruit, which is a sign of maturity. [XVIII] Na ‘ulu hua i ka hapapa. The breadfruit that bears on the ground. Breadfruit trees of Ni‘ihau were grown in sinkholes. The trunks were not visible, and the branches seemed to spread along the ground. These trees are famed in chants of Ni‘ihau. [XIX] O ka ‘ulu o lalo he loa‘a i ka pinana, o ka ‘ulu o luna loa he loa‘a i ka lou. A breadfruit that is low can be reached by climbing, but a breadfruit high above requires a stick to reach it. A mate of low station is easy to find, but one of high rank is less easily acquired. [XX] Pupuhi ka ‘ulu o Ke‘ei; ua koe ka ‘a‘aiole. The breadfruit of Ke‘ei are gone; only those blown down by the wind are left. Said when something mysteriously vanishes. A konohiki of Ke‘ei in Kona, Hawai‘i, was placed in charge of a fine breadfruit grove. In spite of his watchfulness, the fruit were stolen as soon as they matured. Secretly he asked all of his relatives to help him watch for the culprit. However, some were related to the thief as well, who learned about the watch and evaded capture. Long after, a slip of the tongue revealed the thief. [XXI] Ua pi‘i paha i ka ‘ulu o Maunawili. Gone up, perhaps, to fetch the breadfruit of Maunawili. A play on wili (twist, turn about). Said of one who is confused. [XXII] ‘Ulu pilo. Stinking breadfruit. A term of contempt for the kauwa of Puna, Hawai‘i, comparing them to rotted breadfruit. [XXIII] Paki kepau, o‘o ka ‘ulu. When the gum appears on the skin, the breadfruit is matured. An observation. Also said when a young person begins to think seriously of gaining a livelihood–he is maturing.

Dye Color and Parts: Yellow, tan, brown (male inflorescence)

Kino lau: KU. HAUMEA.

Location on Bishop Museum Kalihi Campus: at front of Museum, near the restaurant

Propagation Information: Sever from root stock of mature tree (but don't dig out of the earth), when the plant has developed its own root structure, can be moved (dirt & all). Grows in a varierty of soil types (Burgess and Enos 1996:31; Handy et al. 1972:152).

Seed: Fruit length approximately 200 mm. Photograph: H.Lennstrom.
Click for image