A contemporary artist called Sam Van Aken is changing the whole concept of art, pushing the boundaries of traditional models. He twists around genres of art, agriculture, climatology, botany, and fine-tunes them with modern technology to create a unique wonder. The latest creation he made is called the Tree of 40 Fruit.
When many people saw the Tree of 40 Fruits for the first time they initially associated it with an illustration drawn by Dr. Seuss. And they are not wrong. We cannot find a tree out in nature that grows multiple fruits and sparkles with different ranges of color. However, this tree is indeed real and the fruits that are produced can be eaten.
What Is the Idea Behind this Tree?
Van Aken was born and raised on a farm in Reading, Pennsylvania and today he works in the School of Art at Syracuse University as an Associate Professor.
He started working on this project in 2008 when he was introduced to the pending closure of a 3-acre orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. He was prompted by the offer to accomplish his wonderful creation and took the job in his hands.
Some of the previous fruits or drupes at the orchard were up to 200-years-old before it was closed. The orchard was home to a wide range of native varieties of drupes or stone fruit. As Sam had a great knowledge of agriculture, he knew that some of the rare fruit variants were at risk.
He spent years discovering the best way to create a multi-fruit tree with edible fruits. His goal was to graft parts out of multiple trees at the orchard and create a single tree. He successfully created the most unique tree by using the clip grafting method.
Van Aken chose the Prunus genes to work on his project, as the tree itself can support fruits from a particular genus. The reason why he chooses the particular genus comes with the fact that this kind of tree has a high growth capability and allows and a large number of available varieties.
A New Approach at Agriculture
After Sam chose one particular thee of the orchard he began the process of grafting buds from more than 250 variants of stone fruits. The best time to do this procedure is during the spring season. After the grafting is done, the buds start to heal and then grow on their own.
The tree is like a sculpture from out of space. It is a wonderful mix of pink, white, and red in different shades, a breathtaking sight.
Sam has color-coded each branch on a sheet of paper before the grafts start to grow into branches. With such information on paper, he will be able to indicate which fruits will grow on the various branches. The trees have grown enough branches five years after it was successfully grafted. Each branch has its fruits including varieties of apricots, cherries, almonds, peaches, nectarines, and plums.
The tree grows precisely to look just like one of the drawings. Van Aken grafted the various variants of each tree about six times during the first three years.
In 2014, there were 16 Trees of 40 Fruit produced by him and today 20 trees of the kind are available. The trees can be found in private collections as well as gardens and museums for the public to see them. They can be seen in Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Jersey, California, and of course, New York, where the initial orchard was located.
The Tree of 40 Fruit is unique but do not despair even though there are not too many of them yet. The artist has a brilliant plan to plant more of these breathtaking trees in several urban settings. Hopefully, if the plan goes right, you might see trees like this while walking in your neighborhood.
Can you imagine having all there fruits on one single tree? Varieties of different flavors may be available and that is pretty amazing.
Sam Van Aken said:
”I saw somewhere on a website where somebody said that the Tree of 40 Fruit will end world hunger. And it’s like, ‘No, it won’t. Not at all.’ But what it can do is, I like to think, that it can lead to that type of thinking.”
Van Aken was asked what will happen to the fruit after being harvested and he answered:
“I’ve been told by people that have a tree at their home that it provides the perfect amount and perfect variety of fruit. So rather than having one variety that produces more than you know what to do with, it provides good amounts of each of the 40 varieties. Since all of these fruits ripen at different times, from July through October, you also aren’t inundated.”
He describes the trees as a piece of art and he has all the right to do so. He added:
”First and foremost, I see the tree as an artwork. Like the hoaxes I was doing, I want the tree to interrupt and transform the everyday. When the tree unexpectedly blossoms in different colors, or you see these different types of fruit hanging from its branches, it not only changes the way you look at it, but it changes the way you perceive things in general.”
Thanks to artists like him, we are witnessing art in all its forms and shapes. Hopefully, this artwork will inspire more artists around the world to “break the rules” and do the unimaginable.