As populations grow and researchers look for ways to make agriculture sustainable, innovation is key. For Syracuse University professor and artist Sam Van Aken, bringing together an interest in grafting and a drive to see art that makes a difference resulted in the “Tree of 40 Fruits”, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.
By using chip grafting, or taking budding branches from one tree and grafting it onto a larger tree, Van Aken has created a tree that grows forty different types of stone fruits. Peaches, almonds, cherries, nectarines, plums — all of them appear on this type of tree.
The tree blossoms in beautiful shades of blue and pink, and the fruit appears in sequences, so not all forty appear at once. The first tree was planted in 2011, but it should be at “peak” blossom, according to Van Aken, in three or four years.
There are more than one dozen of these trees at museums around the country, and most of the varieties are heirloom. That means he’s not only exploring a unique way to grow many fruits in a small space, but he’s also bringing back types of these fruits that might otherwise disappear.
Van Aken sees this project as mostly a work of art, and given the colours of the tree, we can see that. But this is also an amazing experiment in biodiversity, and could help find sustainable solutions to agricultural problems. Learn more about how he creates the trees and maintains them in the National Geographic video below.