By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Artist creates sense of wonderment with trees grafted with 40 different fruits
A sculptor spent the last several years grafting together different kinds of stone fruit trees to make a multi-colored tree he dubbed the Tree of 40 Fruit. - photo by Martha Ostergar
SYRACUSE, N.Y. A sculptor spent the last several years grafting different kinds of stone fruits to make a single, multi-colored tree he dubbed Tree of 40 Fruit.

Sam Van Aken an artist, sculptor and teacher at Syracuse University started the project in 2008 when he took up an orchard's lease at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, according to SU. The facility had more than 200 varieties of plums and apricots, which gave rise to an idea that took advantage of Van Akens interest in grafting.

"The idea came from a fascination with the process of grafting. When I'd seen it done as a child, it was Dr. Seuss and Frankenstein and just about everything fantastical," Van Aken says in a video from National Geographic.

He calls the process sculpting by grafting.

I currently work with over 250 varieties of stone fruit and developed a timeline of when they blossom in relationship to each other. By grafting these different varieties onto the tree in a certain order I can essentially sculpt how the tree is to blossom, he explained during an interview with Epicurious.

Even though Tree of 40 Fruit might appear to be an agricultural project, it is always an art project for Van Aken.

The original tree was planted in the quad at SU in 2011 and currently is grafted with over 40 varieties of stone fruits. The tree blooms and bears fruits on different sections of the tree throughout the summer, but Van Aken says in the video the tree is not yet at the peak of fruit production.

There are now more than 16 of Van Akens trees planted across the country, which are in different levels of the grafting process. Van Aken visits each tree twice a year for three years; he prunes in the spring and grafts in late summer until the trees are established.

Wherever I place them, there is a sense of wonderment that they create through their blossoms, the different fruit and the process by which they are created, Van Aken said.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters