In the winter of 1787 the British Government despatched a small naval vessel to the South Pacific to gather living plants of the Tahitian breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis, and to carry them to the West Indian islands of St. Vincent and Jamaica. That voyage has been remembered as the occasion of the most notorious mutiny in naval history, and as marking the historical debut of one of England's most controversial sea officers. But little consideration has been given to its background or its actual purpose. Was the British government in the habit of sending naval vessels on voyages of 30,000 miles with die sole purpose of gathering specimens of exotic plants; or was this the product of a collective national madness — a sentimental journey in fulfilment of some irrational romantic dream? The answers to these questions involve aspects of eighteenth century artistic taste; British attitudes to Empire after 1783; but more particularly the activities of the ubiquitous Sir Joseph Banks.