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Jamaican Jack Fruit
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"JAMAICAN JACK FRUIT" by KAREN WILES
The tree is handsome and stately, 30 to 70 ft (9-21 m) tall, with evergreen, alternate, glossy, somewhat leathery leaves to 9 in (22.5 cm) long, oval on mature wood, sometimes oblong or deeply lobed on young shoots. All parts contain a sticky, white latex. Short, stout flowering twigs emerge from the trunk and large branches, or even from the soil-covered base of very old trees. The tree is monoecious: tiny male flowers are borne in oblong clusters 2 to 4 in (5-10 cm) in length; the female flower clusters are elliptic or rounded. Largest of all tree-borne fruits, the jackfruit may be 8 in to 3 ft (20-90 cm) long and 6 to 20 in (15-50 cm) wide, and the weight ranges from 10 to 60 or even as much as 110 lbs (4.5-20 or 50 kg). The "rind' or exterior of the compound or aggregate fruit is green or yellow when ripe and composed of numerous hard, cone-like points attached to a thick and rubbery, pale yellow or whitish wall. The interior consists of large "bulbs" (fully developed perianths) of yellow, banana-flavored flesh, massed among narrow ribbons of thin, tough undeveloped perianths (or perigones), and a central, pithy core. Each bulb encloses a smooth, oval, light-brown "seed" (endocarp) covered by a thin white membrane (exocarp). The seed is 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) long and 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.25-2 cm) thick and is white and crisp within. There may be 100 or up to 500 seeds in a single fruit. When fully ripe, the unopened jackfruit emits a strong disagreeable odor, resembling that of decayed onions, while the pulp of the opened fruit smells of pineapple and banana.
The jackfruit has played a significant role in Indian agriculture for centuries. Archeological findings in India have revealed that jackfruit was cultivated in India 3000 to 6000 years[clarification needed] ago. It is also widely cultivated in southeast Asia.
In other areas, the jackfruit is considered an invasive species as in Brazil's Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio de Janeiro. The Tijuca is mostly an artificial secondary forest, whose planting began during the mid-19th century, and jackfruit trees have been a part of the park's flora since its founding. Recently, the species expanded excessively because its fruits, once they had naturally fallen to the ground and opened, were eagerly eaten by small mammals such as the common marmoset and coati. The seeds are dispersed by these animals, which allows the jackfruit to compete for space with native tree species. Additionally, as the marmoset and coati also prey opportunistically on bird's eggs and nestlings, the supply of jackfruit as a ready source of food has allowed them to expand their populations, to the detriment of the local bird populations. Between 2002 and 2007, 55,662 jackfruit saplings were destroyed in the Tijuca Forest area in a deliberate culling effort by the park's management.
December 5th, 2012
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