A massive evergreen or semi-evergreen tree reaching a height of 30 m with often a clear trunk up to 4 to 6 m from the base. Bark is thick, smooth and light coloured. Branches are spreading, thick with lateral foliage bearing branchlets. Leaves are arranged alternately and they are thick, leathery and deeply cut into 5 to 11 pointed lobes; upper side is dark green and shiny with conspicuous yellow veins and underside is dull with elevated midrib. Flowers are tiny and clustered together. Female and male inflorescences are present separately on the same tree. Male flowers are arranged densely on drooping, cylindrical or club-shaped spike, which may reach a length of 25 cm. Female inflorescence stands upright, is round or cylindrical and about 8 to 10 cm in length with numerous green flowers embedded. Fruit is compound, ovoid to oblong in shape, may be 10 to 35 cm in length. Outer skin of the fruit is thin and patterned with irregular, four-six sided faces each of which has in the centre a sharp, black pointed, minute but flexible spine. Fruit is green in colour when young, turning to yellowish-green or yellow when ripe. All parts of the plant contain latex.
Ban’bukeyoThe cultivar found in Maldives has adaptedto shallow, calcareous sandy soil but drainage is essential to avoid shedding of fruits.It is normally propagated vegetatively. It is often propagated by transplanting rootsuckers, which spring up naturally. Trees grown from root suckers will bear fruit infive years and will be productive for more than 50 years. Seedlings are also producedfrom root cuttings but it takes a long time to produce a seedling of about two feet tobe outplanted. Other methods of propagation are air-layering, inarching, budding,stem cuttings and marcotting.
Breadfruit is a staple in the Maldivian diet. It can be cooked and eaten at all stages of its development. It can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed and roasted. Boiled breadfruit with fish broth of tuna and coconut forms an appetizing traditional food. A traditional delicious sweet, bondibai, is also made from breadfruit. Breadfruit can be roasted and made into chips, and both the traditional sweet and the chips have good market. Wood is very light, soft and durable and widely used in making doors, door and window frames and boats. Wood is also good for making surfboards. Gum from the tree is used for caulking boats.