Photo credit: Sam Van Aken
Sam Van Aken is a sculptor and professor at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. He has used a wide variety of media to produce his art, with a series of trees among his most recent. One of Van Aken’s most impressive creations is the aptly named Tree of 40 Fruit. Though it looks like a pretty standard fruit tree most of the time, the tree bursts with various shades of white, purple, and pink blossoms from June through October each year, and bears 40 types of fruit.
This amazing tree was created through grafting. In the earliest phases, a couple varieties are added onto the root system of one tree and it is given two years to grow and mature. The remaining varieties are added like branches. A cutting from that includes a bud from the desired fruit tree is put into an incision made in the working tree, just like a branch. It is then taped into place while the tree heals over a period of several months, making the cutting a permanent part of the tree. It takes Van Aken approximately 5 years to complete a tree, and he has created 16 so far.
His primary source for fruit trees was the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. With a massive and diverse orchard at his disposal, he made a spreadsheet of the blooming time for 250 types of fruit trees. This allowed him to be incredibly selective about the timing and color of the blooms, which also spread out when the ripened fruit would be available. This helps him choose the order and location of grafts, so each tree has the perfect look.
The fruit on the tree represents a wide variety of stone fruits, including different types of peaches, cherries, nectarines, apricots, plums, and almonds. Not only did this help with the compatibility of the grafted trees, but there is an incredible amount of diversity among species. The tree features several heirloom, antique, and native varieties that are not commercially popular.
Can’t decide which tree you want to be when the time comes? Why not be 40 in 1?