The breadfruit, fig, and mulberry families of trees include the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), sometimes referred to as the jack tree (Moraceae). Its birthplace lies between the Western Ghats of southern India, Sri Lanka, all of Bangladesh, and the Philippine, Indonesian, and Malaysian rainforests.
The Portuguese term for “jackfruit” is “jaca,” which is taken from the Malayalam word “chakka” (Malayalam: chakka pazham), when the Portuguese first arrived in India in 1499, at Kozhikode (Calicut), on the Malabar Coast (Kerala). Later, in the Latin Hortus Malabaricus, vol. iii, Hendrik van Rheede (1678-1703) incorporated the Malayalam name (cakka). Henry Yule translated Jordanus Catalani’s (fl. 1321-1330) masterpiece Mirabilia descripta: the wonders of the East. This term is derived from the Proto-Dravidian root k(y) (“fruit, vegetable”).
Garcia de Orta, a physician and naturalist, invented the word “jackfruit” in his 1563 book Colóquios des simples e drogas da India. A century and a half later, botanist Ralph Randles Stewart proposed William Jack (1795-1822), a Scottish botanist who worked for the East India Company in Bengal, Sumatra, and Malaya, as the name for the plant.
South Asia and Southeast Asia domesticated the jackfruit separately, as demonstrated by Southeast Asian names for the fruit that are not derived from Sanskrit roots. It was most likely domesticated by Austronesians in Java or the Malay Peninsula. Filipino immigrants later took the fruit to Guam when both were still part of the Spanish Empire. It is both the state fruit of Kerala and Bangladesh’s national fruit.
The evergreen Artocarpus heterophyllus tree has a short trunk and a thick treetop. It is capable of reaching heights of 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) and trunk diameters of 30 to 80 centimeters (cm) (12 to 31 inches). It occasionally grows buttress roots. The bark of the jackfruit tree is smooth and reddish-brown. When the bark is injured, a milky fluid is released.
The leaves are arranged in an alternating and spiral pattern. They are thick and sticky and are divided into a petiole and a leaf blade. The petiole ranges in length from 2.5 to 7.5 cm (1 and 3 inches). The leathery leaf blade is oblong to ovate in form and measures 20-40 cm (7-15 inches) in length and 7.5-18 cm (3-7 inches) in width.
Immature tree leaf edges are irregularly lobed or split. On mature trees, the leaves are spherical, dark green, and have a smooth leaf border. There is a prominent main nerve and six to eight lateral nerves that originate on either side of the leaf blade. The stipules are egg-shaped and vary in length from 1.5 to 8 cm (916 to 3).