Years of hard work by Sam Van Aken, an artist and professor at Syracuse University, has resulted in a "crazy" multi-colored tree that can bear 40 different varieties of stone fruit -- those with pits. Back in 2008, Van Aken discovered an Agricultural Research orchard in Geneva that had more than 200 varieties of plums and apricots that was to be abandoned. He renewed the lease and began experimenting with "sculpture through grafting." In the spring the "Tree of 40 Fruit" has blossoms in many hues of pink and purple, and in the summer it begins to bear the fruits in sequence—Van Aken says it's both a work of art and a time line of the varieties' blossoming and fruiting. Reportedly peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries and almonds are due this season.
In the clip above, he explains how grafting works by slicing branches with buds from one tree and inserting it into a matching slit in a branch on the Tree of 40 Fruit. He wraps the wound with tape, and as it heals the bud grows into a new branch.
He's created more than a dozen of the trees that have been planted at sites such as museums around the U.S., which he sees as a way to spread diversity on a small scale. There are now more than a dozen trees in museums, community centers and private art collections across the country, including in New York, California, New Jersey and Kentucky. A completed Tree of 40 Fruit takes nearly a decade, but is well worth the wait.