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Breadnut (Brosimum alicastrum)


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Common names 

Breadnut, Maya nut, ramón [English]; ramón, ojoche [Spanish]; masico, masica [Spanish/Honduras]; guáimaro [Spanish/Colombia]; ojushte [Spanish/El Salvador]; oxté, iximché [Spanish/Guatemala]; chara, charo amarillo [Spanish/Venezuela]; ojoche [Spanish/Nicaragua]; noix-pain, noyer à pain [French]; chokogou [Haitian Creole]; Brotnussbaum, Ramonbaum [German]; ラモンの木 [Japanese]

  • Brosimum alicastrum has more than 68 names in native languages of Mexico (see full list on CONABIO, 2017).

Alicastrum brownei Kuntze, Brosimum uleanum Mildbr., Helicostylis bolivarensis Pittier, Piratinera alicastrum (Sw.) Baill.

Related feed(s) 

The breadnut tree (Brosimum alicastrum Swartz) is a tree mostly grown in Central America for its foliage, edible fruits and seeds, and good quality wood. Its foliage is frequently pruned, and the fruits are harvested once a year (Salazar et al., 2000; Ayala et al., 1995).


Brosimum alicastrum is an evergreen tree of the Moraceae family, reaching up to 20-30 (45) m in height and 0.7-1.5 m in diameter. It has a rounded open crown, and a dense, dark green foliage. The trunk is straight, larger at the base, strongly rooted (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999). The bark is 1-1.5 cm thick, grey to dark grey with lenticels, subject to desquamation. Leaves are simple, entire, alternate. Leaf-blade is elliptic to elliptic oblong, 8-18 cm long x 4-7.5 cm broad, dark green on the upper face, pale green on the lower. Both faces are glabrous. The inflorescences are globose clusters, 1 cm in diameter, bearing a single female flower and many male ones. The fruit is a one-seeded, fleshy edible berry, 1-2.5 cm in diameter, green yellowish, becoming green orange at maturity (Salazar et al., 2000).


Brosimum alicastrum is well adapted to several climatic conditions and used in many tropical agroforestry systems. Fruits and seeds were commonly used by pre-Columbian Maya human populations (Gillespie et al., 2004) and can be used with success to feed cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses (Peters et al., 1982; Yates et al., 2004) or poultry (Carter, 2015). It is primarily grown as a source of dry season forage for livestock (Gillespie et al., 2004; Peters et al., 1982). Brosimum alicastrum fruits every year and produces up to 50-75 kg edible fruits that are eaten raw by humans or by livestock. The fruit pericarp and chesnut-like seeds are eaten by humans. The seeds can be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted. They taste somewhat like potatoes. Breadnut seeds can be ground and used in mixture with maize meal to make tortillas. Mayans use breadnut seeds to prepare native bread when maize flour is scarce (NAS, 1975).

Breadnut trees are tapped for their milky latex which is used to make chicle, the basis for chewing gum (NAS, 1975). Breadnut wood is dense, finely textured and easy to work. It is used to make furniture, utensils and interior decoration (Salazar et al., 2000). Traditional knowledge of breadnut is particularly high in Chiapas, Mexico where it is reported to be used as forage, shade provider, fuelwood, live fence, construction, and ethnomedicine (Jiménez-Ferrer et al., 2008).


Brosimum alicastrum originated from southeast Mexico and several countries in Central America (Ayala et al., 1995). It is also often found in Jamaica and Cuba (NAS, 1975). Breadnut trees are well adapted to humid climates but they do extremely well in dry areas where they are used as a source of forage (leaves and small branches) for ruminants during the dry season (Ayala et al., 1995). Breadnut can be found from sea level up to an alitude of 900 m in moist tropical forests. It is naturally found in places where average annual rainfall is between 650 and 4000 mm and where average annual temperature is in the range of 18-27°C. The tree is commonly found in the vicinity of Mayan antic ruins, as it was an ancient crop of the Mayas: it makes a climax association called “ramonal”. Though mostly found on fertile lowlands, it can grow on deep slopes (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999). Breadnut is resistant to cool and wet winds and to hurricanes (Burns et al., 1998). It does better on calcareous, fertile and well-drained soils (Salazar et al., 2000; Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999). Breadnut is very tolerant of shade (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).

Forage management 


In Yucatan, forage yield from Brosimum alicastrum trees of different ages and cut under 2 different management systems (partial cut or total cut) were 4.8 and 2.4 kg DM/tree respectively in 4.5 year-old trees, 5 and 3.8 kg DM/tree in 6.5 year-old trees, and 37.9 and 25.4 kg DM/tree in 8.5 year-old trees. DM yield was higher under partial pruning (Pretel-Olite, 2000). Densely (18,000 to 40,000 trees/ha) planted breadnut trees provided higher forage DM (2 t/ha/year) (Ayala et al., 1995).


In Mexico, Brosimum alicastrum is generally grown in homegardens. Seeds may be collected from fruits fallen from wild trees. Seeds should be sown on a sandy bed and irrigated till establishment has occured. Once plantings reach 5-8 cm they can be transplanted in nurseries where they should remain 4-5 months when the plants are 20-25 cm high (Salazar et al., 2000). Direct seeding of breadnut seeds at 3 x 3 m spacings, in association with field beans, has been recommended in Guatemala.

Cutting management

Up to 2 t/ha/year could be obtained from breadnut trees when pruning started 20 months after transplantation, during 3 years, with a pruning every 4.5 months (Ayala et al., 1995). Pruning is not only important for forage yield but also for the tree that makes better quality regrowth after pruning (Burns et al., 1998). Longer rest periods (16 months) between 2 prunings increased forage yield and that partial pruning gave better results than total pruning. However, these results were obtained on trees from very different ages (2-4 year-old trees for total pruning vs. 50 year-old trees in partial pruning). Rest period had limited effect on leave nutritive value (Mendoza-Castillo et al., 2000). In Jamaica, traditional knowledge recommends to plant breadnut trees in hedgerows, live fences or in three strate systems (Morrison et al., 1996).

Management of breadnut trees grown for forage in Guatemala:

Environmental impact 

Endangered species

Breadnut is part of the sub-humid tropical forest species that have a high utilization potential, such as Guazuma ulmifolia and Enterolobium cyclocarpum. However, though Brosimum alicastrum is a multipurpose species used for its forage, edible fruits, wood and medicinal properties, it is disappearing at the expense of grassland in its native range (Sánchez-Velásquez et al., 2002).

Windshelter, shade provider and afforestation

Breadnut provides good shade and is a valuable windshelter for other crops (Burns et al., 1998). It could be used for afforestation in degraded woodlands (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


Breadnut leaves are moderately rich in protein (13-15% DM) though some reported value are much higher (30% DM; Yerena et al., 1977). They have a relatively low fibre content (NDF 33-50% DM, ADF 21-29% DM, lignin 6-11% DM).


Information is very limited on the composition of breadnut seeds. Its composition seems similar to that of cereal grains with a low protein (11-14% DM), fat (2-3% DM) and fibre (crude fibre 6% DM) content. It probably contains a large amount of carbohydrates. One study reports a very large proportion of cystine (8%) in the protein but that remains to be confirmed (Lozano et al., 1978).

Potential constraints 

There is no specific caution when using breadnut leaves. They contain low levels of condensed tannins and consequently have no effect on protein digestibility. However, there were more larval establishment of gastrointestinal nematodes in goats than with tannin-rich forages (Brunet et al., 2008).



Breadnut trees provide forage during the dry season in many areas of Central America. The leaves, seeds and entire fruits are eaten by animals. Breadnut forage has been assessed in agroforestry systems with other woody species for cattle preference and was shown to be readily consumed by cows, though not as much as Albizia saman, Moringa oleifera or Leucaena leucocephala (Nelson Pérez et al., 2012).


Because of their high protein and low NDF and ADF content, breadnut leaves have a high dry matter digestibility (DMD):

The DMD measured in vivo with white tailed deer is medium, with 61% (Lopez-Coba et al., 2007).

The protein degradability in the rumen is very high (93-95%) (Ku Vera et al., 1998). This means that leaves are a good source of protein for the rumen microorganisms (Ramirez-Cancino et al., 2000).

Because breadnut leaves are a good source of protein and fibre supplement, they increased the DMD of a diet based on low nutritive value forage (4-5.6% CP) when supplemented at 15% to 23% of the DM (Ramirez-Cancino et al., 2000; Ku Vera et al., 1998).


Breadnut leaves are mostly offered with small and young branches (Göhl, 1982). When fed alone to sheep, breadnut leaves dry matter intake (DMI) reaches a high level: 5.9 % of body weight (Yerena et al., 1977). In several studies conducted for comparing different tree leaves offered to ruminants, breadnut leaves were almost always preferred: 1.7 to 9 times more by cattle (Sandoval-Castro et al., 2005), 1.4 to 2 times more by goats (Alonso-Diaz et al., 2008; Pech-Cervantes et al., 2016), 1.4 to 6.3 times more by sheep (Alonso-Diaz et al., 2009; Hernández-Orduño et al., 2015; Pech-Cervantes et al., 2016), and 1.2 to 6 times more with white tailed deer (Lopez-Coba et al., 2007; Plata et al., 2009). In several situations, the lower preference of the other tree species is a consequence of their high anti-nutritive factors contents like phenolic compounds and condensed tannins, and high lignin content.

Because of their good protein content (similar to legume forages), high DMD and protein digestibility, breadnut leaves are a good forage supplement which can be used during the dry season with low nutritive value forage. They may increase the DMD of the forage and would at least fulfill the maintenance requirements, or a low growth rate.



When fresh leaves of breadnut were offered ad libitum with fresh elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), heifers (about 350 kg BW) ate up to 3 kg DM of breadnut and almost 6 kg DM of elephant grass (Sandoval-Castro et al., 2005).

Dairy cattle

When offered at 2 kg DM/d as a supplement to 450 kg crossbred (Bos taurus x Bos indicus) cows, suckling their calf and grazing Guinea grass, breadnut leaves allowed a total yield of 5.5 kg milk/d (Bobadilla-Hernandez et al., 2007). When breadnut leaves replaced up to 66% of the concentrate (2kg/d of sorghum grain and soybean meal) to crossbred dairy cows (453 kg; 86 days in milk) the milk yield was no different: 7 vs. 8.2 kg/d (Sandoval-Castro et al., 2005).


In Yucatan, Mexico, breadnut leaves were either offered ad libitum as a supplement to Pelibuey and Black belly sheep (13 kg) grazing medium quality pasture or as a sole forage supplemented with 200 g concentrate for more than 2 months. The daily weight gains were different (70 to 77 g/d) but in the same range, while it was shown that using breadnut leaves as sole forage resulted in a very lower daily weight gain (only 46 g/d) (Pérez et al., 1995). However, it was shown that using breadnut foliage alone yielded better DWG than mixing it with foliage of false tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum) had deleterious effects on voluntary intake, nutrient digestibility and N balance in Pelibuey sheep fed on low quality grass (Sorghum halepense) hay (Castro-González et al., 2008).


While breadnut foliage was the shown to be preferred by goat kids with a forage intake of 13 g DM/kg LW among 3 other tree foliages (Acacia pennatula, Piscidia pendula, Lysiloma latisiliquum), its intake rate per minute was the lowest (Alonso-Diaz et al., 2008). Lactating goats fed on elephant grass basal diet were supplemented with breadnut foliage or mucuna bean. Both supplements increased DM intake at the beginning. At the end of the experiment both supplements resulted in higher intake but breadnut showed a quadratic increase which suggested that animals fed on breadnut foliage had reached their digestive capacity since breadnut foliage is bulky. A linear increase in milk production was observed with breadnut foliage (Mendoza-Castillo et al., 2003).



One tree can produce about 40 kg of seeds, which are relished by pigs. However, it has been shown that pigs receiving breadnut seeds in replacement of sorghum had significantly lower weight gain and poorer feed conversion ratio as the level of breadnut seeds increased. It was suggested that it could be due to metabolizable energy content, which is lower in breadnut seeds than in cereals. Sorghum substitution up to 30% was possible in the diet of growing pigs (Lozano et al., 1978).


When pigs fed on sorghum and soybean meal were supplemented with 10 to 30% ground leaves of breadnut, the increase of foliage supplementation resulted in reduced DM intake and digestibility. Digestibilities of DM, protein, hemicellulose and energy were higher for breadnut leaves than for leucaena. Digestible energy was 6.6 MJ/kg (Santos Ricalde et al., 1995).



In the Mexican state of Quintana Roo it has been observed that many species of wild birds eat breadnut seeds. One-day chickens fed on a 23% protein diet during 4 weeks with breadnut seeds in order to replace sorghum grain had lower weight gain and poorer feed conversion ratio when breadnut seeds totally replaced sorghum. However, breadnut seeds replacing 50% sorghum grain had no significant differences on weight gain (Lozano et al., 1978).



Fresh leaves of Brosimum alicastrum are a potential forage for rabbits. As it was observed for most of the wild or domestic herbivorous animals (Carter, 2015), these leaves are more relished by rabbits than most of the other tropical forages (Cruz-Bacab, 2013; Safwat et al., 2014). Feeding fresh breadnut leaves ad libitum to growing rabbits, in addition to a concentrate ad libitum, resulted in higher daily weight gain (24.7 g/d) than with Hibiscus rosa-sinensis leaves used in the same conditions (23.8 g/d). The voluntalry proportion of B. alicastrum leaves in the daily total DM intake was 26 to 38%, depending on the experiment (Martinez Yanez et al., 2010). Fresh breadnut leaves may replace 50% of the concentrate with only a small reduction of growth rate (less than 10%), and a carcass reduction of only 3% (Serrano Sibrian et al., 2016).

The determination of the digestibility of leaves, when used as the only feed, resulted in a value of 9.6 MJ/kg DM for digestible energy and a protein digestibility of 61% (Martinez Yanez et al., 2010), similar to values generally admitted for alfalfa meal. In addition, energy digestibility values are not affected by the incorporation level of dried breadnut leaves in balanced diets at 20-40% or 60% (Rojas, 2008).

Fruits and seeds

No information seems available in the international literature on the use of Brosimum alicastrum fruits or seeds in rabbit feeding (March 2017). Since these products are widely used for food and feed, they should be a suitable feed source for rabbits. Seed composition is similar to that of cereals such as maize, barley or wheat, and could probably be used in the same manner. However, breadnut seeds are very deficient in lysine and their protein has a large amount of sulphur-containing amino acids, more than twice than that of wheat or maize (Gomez-Pompa, 1980).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 42.5       1  
Crude protein % DM 13.9   13 15 4  
Crude fibre % DM 22.4   14.7 24.1 2  
Ether extract % DM 3.7   2.9 5.9 4  
Ash % DM 11.6   6.6 16.6 4  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 39.7   33.4 49.6 3  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 25.5   20.6 28.8 3  
Lignin % DM 8.1   5.6 10.6 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.9         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 32.6       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 40   20 70 2  
Tanins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 10   10 20 3  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 13         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.5         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 72         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 76         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alonso-Diaz et al., 2009; Carranza-Montano et al., 2003; Safwat et al., 2014

Last updated on 22/12/2017 13:01:33

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 42.5       1  
Crude protein % DM 12.4   10.9 14 2  
Crude fibre % DM 5.8   5.6 6 2  
Ether extract % DM 2.4   1.8 2.9 2  
Ash % DM 3.7   3.3 4.1 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1         *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Lysine g/16g N 2.1       1  
Threonine g/16g N 2.2       1  
Methionine g/16g N 0.8       1  
Cystine g/16g N 9       1  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 8.6         *
Tryptophan g/16g N 2.1       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 1       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.9       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.5         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 89         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 92         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 75         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Calvino, 1952; Lozano et al., 1978

Last updated on 22/12/2017 13:46:43

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Hassoun P., Lebas F., 2017. Breadnut (Brosimum alicastrum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/175 Last updated on December 22, 2017, 13:52