Have You Seen this Syracuse University Tree of 40 Fruit?
Syracuse University Professor Sam Van Aken is a contemporary artist who's medium of choice is fruit trees. Yes. Fruit trees. He literally creates living sculpture from grafting rare, unusual and heirloom stone fruit trees together. One of Van Aken's most notable works is called 'Tree of 40 Fruit' and it is more incredible in person than it is in pictures.
What in the World is a 'Tree of 40 Fruit'?
As the name suggests, it's a tree that has been 'chip grafted' in such a way that the tree, once complete, blooms and bears 40 different varieties of stone fruit--plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, almonds, etc. It's both art and orchard on a single sentient vegetal. Atlas Obscura describes it like this,
Van Aken began his project in 2008, after acquiring three acres of a soon-to-be-closing orchard run by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Rather than let the orchard’s unique strains of stone fruit varieties become lost forever, he decided to preserve them by grafting their buds onto a single tree.
According to The Science Times,
Every year in February Sam travels throughout New York State and the region collecting 12 to18 inch sections from various stone fruit trees. Sam chose stone fruits for their capability and the number of native varieties there are. In the spring, the pieces are grafted onto the new tree where the buds will heal and emerge as new growth. The tree grows the new graft, turning each branch into different varieties of fruit.
"Once grafted, Sam color-codes each branch on a sheet of paper to indicate what each branch will grow. Each tree has its own stone fruit varieties which are carefully chosen based on their bloom and color, almost like a living sculpture. One particular tree will have six kinds of plums, two nectarines, three apricots, and one peach.
Each of the single trees takes about five years to start producing a variety of different fruits. Sam visits each of the trees about six times in the first three years to prune and graft all 40 varieties of stone fruit onto the tree."
Want to See A 'Tree of 40 Fruit' in Person?
There are 'Trees of 40 Fruit' installed all over the United States at various locations including museums, private collections and community gardens. There is even an 'Open Orchard' of 50 'Tree of 40 Fruit' happening on Governer's Island NYC.
The tree called 'Tree 75' and was planted in the Syracuse University quad, between H.B. Crouse Hall and the iSchool in 2011. It blooms and produces fruit at different times between May and October. And, it's gorgeous.
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