Artist Creates Trees That Grow 40 Different Fruits

Sam Van Aken grafts fruit buds onto a base tree
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2014 12:47 PM CDT

A tree with 40 different fruits sounds like something out of fairytale. But Syracuse University artist Sam Van Aken is turning plum trees into orchards unto themselves, reports Time. Most of the year, his trees appear to be common fruit trees, but they eventually bloom in different colors and bear dozens of varieties of stone fruit, including peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines, reports the Toronto Star. His project is called the Tree of 40 Fruit, and if you'd like to create one such tree of your own, figure on devoting about nine years to the task. For Van Aken, this is also a conservation effort, because he makes a point to revive antique and heirloom fruits such Greengage plums not sold in stores because of their appearance or short shelf life.

So how does he do it? By grafting antique, heirloom, and native fruit buds to a base tree. "I take a sliver off one of the trees that includes the bud, I insert it into a like-size incision in the working tree, tape it, let it sit and heal in all winter, then I prune it back and hope that it grows," he explains in a TEDx talk. Van Aken is now growing a grove of trees in Portland, Maine, so they and their fruit can be available to the public. He sells his trees, too—for $30,000 a pop—and the money is going toward the creation of an orchard that will grow antique varieties in order to preserve them. (More trees stories.)

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