Sam Van Aken is a Syracuse University-based artist and professor who has created art with a variety of media over the years. But the tastiest has got to be this Trees of 40 Fruit.
Sam uses a process called chip grafting to combine branches from 40 different fruit-bearing trees onto one “working tree,” or base tree.
He grafts the branches together using putty and tape.
The tape protects the wound in the tree, allowing it to heal. Soon, the branches fuse together, forming a single living organism.
The “working” or base tree must grow for about three years before it can support grafted branches. The working tree’s trunk must support and provide water and nutrients to all of the grafted branches. The entire process can take up to eight or nine years.
Sam keeps diagrams of his trees showing which branch is which.
All of the trees Sam grafts are stone fruit trees. These include different varieties of peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, and almonds.
When the trees bloom, they show an amazing array of purple, pink, and white flowers.
You could make an entire fruit salad just from the fruits that grow on this single tree.
Over a dozen of Sam’s trees are planted around the US in locations such as museums.
“Part of the idea of the Tree of 40 Fruit was to plant them in locations that people would sort of stumble upon,” Sam said.
“Once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question: Why are the leaves shaped differently? Why are they different colors? And then in summer when you would see all of these different fruit growing on them, and of course in spring when they blossom different colors.”
See National Geographic’s feature story on Sam and his amazing trees below:
Find out more on Sam’s trees at the Fruit of 40 Trees website.