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The Incredible Tree of 40 Fruit – Art, Nature, and Science in One!

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » The Incredible Tree of 40 Fruit – Art, Nature, and Science in One!

Image Credit: Sam Van Aken

In a quiet corner of the botanical world, an innovative project blossoms—Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit.

Van Aken, a sculpture professor at Syracuse University, turned an orchard destined for closure into a canvas for his groundbreaking art.

In 2008, he took over a 3-acre orchard from the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which was shuttering due to budget cuts.

His vision was unique: create a single tree that could bear 40 different types of stone fruits.

Through the painstaking technique of grafting, Van Aken fused branches from some of the over 250 heritage fruit varieties onto one stock tree.

Over the course of five years, this tree evolved into a living library of fruits—each branch a different heirloom variety like almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, and plum.

Each spring, this tree celebrates the season with a flourish of red, pink, and white blossoms, transforming into a full palette of fruits by summer’s end.

Van Aken intended the Tree of 40 Fruit as an art piece that would also spark dialogue about agricultural diversity and heritage crops.

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‘Tree 75’ coming into blossom on the Syracuse University campus – Credit: Sam Van Aken courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Art, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By 2014, he had grown 16 of these trees, which found homes in diverse settings from community gardens to museum landscapes in cities like Newton, Massachusetts, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

There’s even a plan to fill a city orchard with these multifaceted trees.

Thus, the Tree of 40 Fruit not only stands as a striking blend of artistic vision and horticultural skill but also tells a continuing story of innovation and preservation in the face of changing agricultural landscapes.

It invites those who see it to consider the beauty and complexity of nature intertwined with human creativity.

Digging Deeper

Locations

The Trees of 40 Fruit are growing in diverse settings across the United States, including public gardens and museums in cities like Newton, Massachusetts; Bentonville, Arkansas; and San Jose, California.

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A Tree of 40 Fruit fruiting in San Van Aken’s nursery – Credit: Sam Van Aken courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Art, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Type of Tree

The Tree of 40 Fruit is a unique, single fruit tree that has been grafted to produce 40 different types of stone fruits, all from the genus Prunus.

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Artist’s planning diagram of “Tree 71” – Credit: Sam Van Aken courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Art, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Is The Tree of 40 Fruit Alive?

Yes, each Tree of 40 Fruit is alive, flourishing each year with vibrant blossoms and a diverse yield of fruits.

Can You Visit Them?

Yes, many of the Trees of 40 Fruit are planted in accessible locations such as community gardens and museums, allowing the public to experience their beauty and bounty firsthand.

Conservation

These trees play a role in conserving rare and heritage fruit varieties, serving as both a genetic repository and an educational tool that highlights the importance of plant diversity.

Legacy

The Tree of 40 Fruit is a living legacy of artistic and agricultural innovation, blending the boundaries between botanical art and environmental conservation.

Want More?

Are you fascinated by the Tree of 40 Fruit?

Take a look at some of the world’s most incredible trees, from the eerie bends of the Crooked Forest in Poland to the venerable strength of the Major Oak.

Admire the submerged allure of the Sunken Forest in Lake Kaindy, gaze skyward at Hyperion—the tallest tree on Earth, pay respects to the ancient Methuselah, and wander the awe-inspiring Avenue of Baobabs.

But the tales don’t end here—join the journey of the Moon Trees, grown from seeds that orbited the moon with Apollo 14, flourishing back on Earth as symbols of human achievement and cosmic curiosity.

Each of these remarkable trees weaves a story of beauty intertwined with history, beckoning you to ponder their profound legacies.

Sources – Wikipedia, Sam Van Aken & Youtube

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!