Treculia africana, the African breadfruit, is a tree species in the genus Treculia. It is used as a food plant. The fruits are hard and fibrous, can be the size of a volleyball and weight up to 8.5 kilograms (19 lb). Chimpanzees have been observed to use tools to break the fruits into small pieces that they can eat. The fruits contain polyphenols.
Description and origin
Treculia africana is a species of tree known as 'African breadfruit'. Many names are given to this species, but the most common is "ukwa".
The geographical distribution of Treculia africana extends through West and Central Africa. The species can grow below altitudes of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft).
Treculia africana is a large tree and is part of the family Moraceae. It grows in wet areas and forests. The species can grow up to a height of 30 metres (98 ft). The girth of the stem can attain 6 metres (20 ft). The bark is grey and discharges a cream latex. The leaves are large and dark green above and lighter below. Trees dioecious (sexes on separate trees) or sometimes monoecious. Leaves in two ranks; stipules amplexicaul (enclosing the bud). Inflorescences unisexual, sometimes bisexual, globose, borne in the leaf axils or on the older wood and branches. Pistillate (female) flowers lining the outer surface of a large receptacle (‘bread fruit’). The flowering period is from October until February. The fruit is big, round and greenish yellow. The texture of the fruit is spongy when it is ripe and it contains abundant seeds, which are the edible part of this fruit. Under good environmental conditions, the yield from one tree attains 200 kg dried seeds. Seeds are dicotyledonous
Based on detailed field observations, 3 varieties are distinguished within the subspecies: Treculia africana var. africana (Extending from Senegal to Southern Sudan and south to Angola, central Mozambique and Principe and Sao Tomé islands), Treculia africana var. inversa (Anambra State, Edo and Delta States, more abundant in the eastern states of Nigeria) and Treculia africana var. mollis (Isolated localities in Edo and Delta States of Nigeria, Cameroun, DR.Congo, Gabon and Cabinda).
Their taxonomic differences are based mainly on the size of the fruit head (infructence) and the hairiness of branchlets and leaves. There is a striking variation in the number of fruit heads produced by trees belonging to Treculia african var. africana (with large fruit heads) and Treculia african var. inversa (with small fruit heads). The former is clearly superior in the weight of seeds produced while the latter produces more fruit and also produces twice as many branches.
Key to the varieties of Treculia africana
- 1. Branchlets, petioles and undersurface of leaves soon glabrous, shining and glossy; leaves ovate-elliptic:
- • Fruit head large, over 20 cm in diam.(Very large, being usually over 60 cm in longitudinal circumference), often smooth; seeds also large, rounded, sometimes elongated, about 1.3 cm long; mesocarp over 5 cm thick; slash pinkish (var. africana)
- • Fruit heads small, usually less than 20 cm in diam., often knobbly or wrinkled; seeds small, elongated, sometimes more or less rounded, about 1 cm long or less; mesocarp less than 5 cm thick; slash brownish (var. inversa)
- 2. Branchlets, petioles and undersurface of leaves with persistent spreading hairs, dull, not glossy; leaves oblong-elliptic;
- •Fruit heads small, usually less than 20 cm in diam., often knobbly or wrinkled; seeds, small, rounded to elongated, about 1 cm long; mesocarp less than 5 cm thick; slash pinkish (var. mollis)
- Treculia africana
- •Treculia africana subsp. africana Decne. ex Trec.
- •Treculia africana subsp. madagascarica (N.E. Br.) C.C. Berg 
- •Treculia africana var. ilicifolia (Leandri) C.C. Berg 
- •Treculia africana var. inversa J.C. Okafor 
- •Treculia africana var. mollis (Engl.) Léonard 
- •Treculia africana var. sambiranensis (Leandri) C.C. Berg 
African breadfruit is an edible traditional fruit, consumed, for example in Nigeria, where it is eaten as a main dish. The seeds are of particular interest because of their high nutrition value. Fresh seeds contain 38.3% carbohydrate, 17.7% crude protein and 15.9% fat. Readily available in many developing African countries, Treculia africana can be an alternative to rice and yam. The seeds of Treculia africana can be ground to flour, pressed for oil and used as flavouring in alcoholic drinks.
It is known that African breadfruit is a good adjunct in brewing because it is a source of fermentable sugars. For success with the brewing, see the study of Nwabueze et al. (2011). They find that the yield production of ethanol is enhanced when its defatted seeds are used.
The wood has many uses such as firewood, for furniture and for home and other building construction. It can also be processed into paper.
In countries like Malawi and Tanzania, the fruit-head pulp and bran are used to feed monkeys and farm animals.
This tree helps to control erosion and is a good natural source of mulch. However, deforestation, higher demand for cultivated agricultural areas and the increasing population reduce numbers of this important forest tree in the African tropics.
The traditional farming system utilises mixed cropping. For example the complete burning of land has an erosion effect which can be minimized if these trees are present.
Afforestation and reafforestation.
Treculia africana is used for reafforestation projects in Africa. The Nutrecul Agroforestry Project an authority in Treculia nursery is taking the lead and has the most genetic variation of Treculia trees. The organization has the largest collection of in vitro (Plant Tissue Culture) motherplants and also have their own cultivariety
- "Treculia africana". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
- Walker, Matt (24 December 2009). "Chimps use cleavers and anvils as tools to chop food". BBC News. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- The effect of a single oral dose of polyphenols obtained from the outercoat of the fruit of Treculia africana in protein-deficient rats. R. O. Lawal, Food Chemistry, Volume 44, Issue 5, 1992, Pages 321-323, doi:10.1016/0308-8146(92)90262-Z
- Nuga O.O, Ofodile E.A.U (2010) Potentials of Treculia africana Decne - an endangered species of Southern Nigeria. Journal of Agriculture and Social Research No.2
- Nutrecul Agroforestry - Treculia Research Center http://www.nutrecul-agroforestry.com
- Nwabueze T.U., Uchendu C.B. (2011) African Breadfruit (Treculia africana) Seed as Adjunct in Ethanol Production. European Journal of Food Research & Review 1(1): 15-22
- Treculia africana on www.worldagroforestry.org
- Nutrecul Agroforestry - Treculia Research Center on www.nutrecul-agroforestry.com
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