This Single Tree Is Growing 40 Different Types of Fruit
May 1, 2016
Yes, it’s real. And yes, they’re all edible.
From a distance, this tree might look like any other tree, but a closer inspection will reveal leaves of different sizes flourishing harmoniously alongside each other. That’s because it’s the work of Sam Van Aken, a Syracuse University professor and contemporary artist, who creates hybrid trees with 40 different types of stone fruit growing on them at once.
Tree of 40 Fruit is an ongoing project for the Van Aken, who is constantly looking to alter and improve his method for devising unique hybrids. He creates each tree through “chip grafting,” in which he takes an already budding branch of a single variety of fruit, then transplants it onto his own working tree over a process of eight or nine years.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VIA YOUTUBE
“It started as an art project,” Sam told TIME. “I wanted people to have this experience where a tree is blossoming in all these different colors or growing all these different kinds of fruit all at once.” While his inspiration was an early fascination with grafting, the project has grown into so much more over the years. Now, Sam cultivates lesser available stone fruit varieties on his trees.
The result of all his time and effort? Awe-aspiring trees that are sold across the country. Sam hopes they will be placed in locations where people can just stumble upon them. While each one has 40 varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds growing on its branches (many of them antique or heritage fruits you can’t buy commercially), it actually looks more normal than you might expect for most of the year. Since the fruits all blossom at different times, Sam makes diagrams to help him keep track of their growing seasons. In spring, the trees bloom beautiful flowers, while they grow fruits during the summer. And yes, the fruits are edible.
“I think the reason I’ve been able to keep it going for so long is that every year, it’s something new,” Sam told National Geographic. “And when you come out here, and the trees are all in blossom, it’s really kind of an amazing experience.”