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Tree of 40 Fruit: Sam Van Aken’s “Noah’s Ark” Masterpiece

Tree of 40 fruit
5 min read

Have you ever imagined a colourful tree in the park, with all types of flowers on it? Well, these trees go by many names but are commonly referred to as multi-fruit trees or multi-stem trees. These fantasy-like creations are 100% made by man and are almost a magical thing to witness.

More notably, there is a contemporary artist by the name of Sam Van Aken who has set out to place such multispecies trees all over the United States. 

By using grafting, which is an achievable task by anyone who is willing to put in the work, the Syracuse University professor has managed to grow a tree that produces 40 types of fruits.

It is named the Trees of 40 Fruit.

And it is no Frankenstein. It’s a true masterpiece.

Who is Sam Van Aken?

He’s an associate professor in the School of Art at Syracuse University.

Sam Van Aken

Image Source: Vos Iz Neias

Being a contemporary artist that goes beyond the traditional forms of making art, Sam Van Aken has received various honours for his work, and in some cases, become the basis of scientific studies and research.

What is the Tree of 40 Fruit?

It is a piece of art that was created by Sam via a chip grafting method.

This tree is obviously not found in nature.

To have so many stone fruits growing on a single tree, Sam had to travel the region to collect various sections of different stone fruit trees, with sizes varying between 12 to 18 inches.

Sam Van Aken Tree of 40 Fruits

Image Source: Inhabitat

These pieces are then grafted during Springtime onto the new tree where the buds will heal and become new growth.

The new grafts begin to grow, and this turns every branch into a different variety of fruit.

As the Tree of 40 Fruits is an art piece, it is Sam Van Aken’s living sculpture. By that, Sam colour codes each branch and selects his varieties based on their colour and bloom, making sure the masterpiece will turn out as intended.

Is It Possible To Make Your Own Multi Grafted Tree? 

The good news is, anyone can do it!

All you need to do is to pick up some grafting skills and years of patience to see the results!

It is a technique that involves connecting a bud/shoot from one plant onto the root or trunk of another plant. If grafting is executed successfully, you can easily make your plum tree grow peaches and apricots, or give your grapefruit tree a random lemon section.

Chip Graftng Sam Van Aken

Image Source: Sam Van Aken

One thing to note though. 

As grafting involves cutting away the protective layer of bark and exposing the delicate insides of the tree, it is crucial to pay special attention to the graft to prevent bacteria and pests from interfering with the process.

Also, keep in mind that you can only graft trees that belong to the same family tree (pun definitely intended).

Sounds like a tree doctor? Not to worry!

There are tons of grafting guides available on the internet and you will find that it’s way easier than it sounds.

The Purpose of the Tree of 40 Fruit – What’s So Special?

Quoting Sam Van Aken in his interview with Epicurious, he said:

“First and foremost I see the tree as an artwork, I want the tree to interrupt and transform the everyday. When the tree unexpectedly blossoms in different colours, or you see these different types of fruit hanging from its branches, it not only changes the way you look at it, but it changes the way you perceive (things) in general.”

The Tree of 40 Fruits may not exactly be Noah’s ark of these uncommon stonefruits, but it has definitely set us thinking about our actions and the consequences of it on the environment.

Maybe it will inspire you to do something different to help with climate change?

Sam Van Aken’s Most Ambitious Project To Date – Open Orchard

Being a combination of public art and environmental preservation, The Open Orchard on Governors Island will comprise of 50 hybrid fruit trees. 

Open Orchard Sam Van Aken

Image Source: Sam Van Aken

Every single tree will be grafted with different species of nectarines, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and apples that originated from New York City over the past 400 years but is now lost to rapid industrialisation and climate change. 

These trees provide possibilities for visitors to observe and enjoy these rare fruit collections, that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to as these fruits are technically ‘extinct’ in NYC and not available for the past decades and centuries. 

The Open Orchard helps with the preservation and the protection of biodiversity for future generations to come, acting as a “living gene bank”.

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Last updated on January 17th, 2020.

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