This Frankenstein tree can grow 40 different kinds of fruit

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Monday, July 27, 2015
An artist's rendering of the "Tree of 40 Fruit," grafted together by Sam Van Aken to bear 40 different kinds of fruit.
Sam Van Aken

Sam Van Aken, an artist and professor at Syracuse University, managed to graft different stone fruit plants such as peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries together to create a single tree that grows 40 different kinds of fruit.

"Through the project, I worked with a lot of growers and at first they didn't understand," Van Aken told National Geographic. "'Why would you want to have a tree with that many different fruit on it? You would have to go back over and over to continue to harvest all the fruit.'"

Different stone fruits growing on one of Van Aken's grafted trees.
Sam Van Aken

Because these stone fruits bear strong similarities of their chromosomal structure, Van Aken was about to combine them using a "chip grafting" process. In spring, the tree blossoms in tones of pink, crimson and white, and bear the different fruit in sequence during summer.

"The idea came from just sort of a fascination with the process of grafting," Van Aken told National Geographic. "When I had seen it done as a child, it was Dr. Seuss and Frankenstein, and just about everything fantastic."

Van Aken's grafted trees blossoming in his nursery.
Sam Van Aken

Van Aken said he traveled around New York to look for different varieties of stone fruits that would work for his project, and came across rare "heirloom and antique varieties" and grafted them together in his nursery.

"Now I have a huge collection of plums and apricots," Van Aken said with a laugh.

The plum harvest from one of Van Aken's grafted trees.
Sam Van Aken

Van Aken plans to plant the tree in multiple locations that people will stumble upon, and question the tree's unique appearance and seemingly supernatural origins much like a farfetched hoax becoming reality.

Van Aken hopes his living, allegorical sculpture begins a dialogue on the symbiosis of humankind's relationship to nature. Van Aken chose the number 40 as a symbolic number found throughout western religion, culture and government as it symbolizes the infinite; "a bounty that is beyond calculation."