(Video) The Tree of 40 Fruits – Harmless Hybrid or Frankenstein Fruit?

Cap’N Dave sent over this video of a truly unique project from Sam Van Aken at Syracuse University. Sam is an artist with a passion – a passion for stone fruit. By day, he’s an Associate Professor of Sculpture. But his latest sculpture is more at home in the fruit orchard than in the art gallery.

Sam has a strong interest in grafting, and his “Tree of 40 Fruits” shows it. Onto each tree, he grafts buds from 40 different varieties of stone fruit, including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. He focuses on native and antique varieties of stone fruit, and he says that the project is, in part, about preserving heirloom varieties that are not used commercially. The process to create one tree takes 8 to 9 years.

The spring bloom on these trees must be truly amazing, with all shades of white, pink, and peach blooming in sequence. And the summer harvest must feel like a gift that just keeps on giving, as each ripening variety is followed by another – 40 times over.

But, as a naturally skeptic soul, I can’t help but wonder if this really a good idea… I assume that the pollination rates are staggeringly high, since each bloom has blooms from up to 39 other stone fruit varieties only a few feet away. But, if one wanted to plant the seeds from any of the fruits, this is obviously a cross-pollination nightmare, and there’s no telling what kinds of bizarre hybrids would result.

So, what do you think? Is the “Tree of 40 Fruits” an innovative improvement, or a horrible mistake worthy of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab? Watch the video, and use the comments section below to let us know what you think.



Thanks to Cap’N Dave for sending this our way! You can see Sam Van Aken’s personal webpage here: www.samvanaken.com.

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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17 Comments
  • Belinda

    Wow – what an endeavor! That’s amazing.

  • GB

    A 5 fruit tree would be great already, since I have very little space!

  • Holly

    If Gaia had wanted 40 fruits on one tree, don’t you think she would have provided such? Playing with mother nature again… genetically. Nope sorry, let’s get back to basics.

  • Deb

    I totally disagree with 1 tree carrying 40 fruits! Will be lots of wasted fruit, for one reason. Puts too much on just one tree. Maybe 8-10 on 4 or 5 different trees. I think that would be better. Plus, on a tree of 40 – what if 20 of those you did not even like or care about? More different trees with less fruits. Why don’t you try that? It would be a lot easier, also!

  • p

    Not frankenfruit, because it’s not genetically engineered or modified. And all the named stone fruit are in the Prunus genus, so no bizarre crosses – no kiwi or watermelon in the mix. Sam didn’t mention what the base tree was; most single-fruit trees are grafted to a base happier in the local soil, so I’d guess that’s true for his art trees. I hope his sketches of the trees are on his website soon!

  • Bonnie

    I think it’s an amazng work of living art! I would love to have one. He makes grafting look so easy. I would love to learn to do it. We have a couple of wild orange trees that we’ve had a couple of people try grafting other citrus onto, but no one has succeeded yet. No harm can come from it. Grafting does not change the DNA, unlike genetic engineering.

  • Looks like fun! I want a couple!

  • Mr Yan

    It’s a grafted tree with forty cultivars over one genus. You make orchard trees by grafting not the grown seeds. Who cares about the potential hybrid seed pits the fruit well be fine. There’s nothing genetically different about this plant.

    The prof is a grafting master. Wish I could learn from him.

    Gave the story one star. The headline is click bait. The story went off the deep end with the Frankenstein references

    • I don’t think they are “cultivars” – Van Aken’s website specifically says that they’re primarily native and antique varieties – as mentioned in the article. It’s obviously a departure from the normal “family tree” approach – I’ve seen trees with 3 and 5 varieties per tree in the trade, but never anything like 40.

      Luther Burbank and Floyd Zaiger cared about the seeds – you can buy grafted clones from either of their hybrids today.

  • Lana

    I love it! Would love to have one.

  • I have an apple dubbed frankentree with 150 varieties grafted on, at least 85 or 90 of which fruited this year. I think that multigrafted trees will serve most homescale/homestead growers much better than single variety trees unless those single varietals are very small, as in very dwarfed or restricted form trees. More variety, longer season (6.5 months on mine), better pollination. And, if you build it yourself then you know how to graft which gives you the ability to cut and paste freely, get rid of stuff you don’t like, expand stuff you do, and collect new varieties. There is quite a bit on my site http://www.skillcult.com about frankentreeing and I just posted this video showing mine in full fruit which is a pretty cool site. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7o-ZWg2JKg It is not hard and anyone can learn to graft. There are just some strategy tips that can be very useful, which I discuss in various places linked above and will expand on in some form in the future.

  • Laurie

    Grafting is a Biblical practice, hardly frakenfood. The real culprit is anything that is genetically modified, where a person in a special lab uses force to inject particles of metals which are coated with the DNA of things like ecoli in the case of GMO corn, or DNA from a fish injected into a tomato seed. These GMO’s produce proteins that are unrecognizable to the body which consumes it, making the nutrients null an void, and increasing the risk for the consumer’s DNA to be contaminated, causing abnormal cell growth in the consumer. Cancer warning!
    I once owned little glow fish which were part coral, and part jellyfish, which made them neon glowing little fish. When genetically modified organisims meet with natural organisims, their offspring will be GMO. Just say no to GMO anything (including cute pet store fish).

  • C

    takes all that time and if they do produce fruit . no interference amount to fruit then no gmo what is the complaint there is none

  • Betty Mauro

    I want one

  • JOY S.

    THIS REMINDS ME OF HOW ‘GOD ‘ GRAFTED ME INTO HIS TREE OF LIFE WHEN HE DIED ON THE CROSS. JOHN 3:16 . SEE PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT COLORS AND ‘GOD’ WILL GRAFT YOU IN NO MATTER WHAT YOUR COLOR. JUST RECIVE HIM AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR BY ASKING HIM TO FORGIVE YOUR SINS AND HE WILL. BECAUSE OF THE CROSS HE DIED FOR ALL. GOD BLESS. READ YOUR BIBLE TO FIND OUT MORE OF THE TRUE STORY.!!!!

  • Janice

    As I can’t see these trees ever being more than just novelties, which happen to require a great deal of work as well, I don’t see that they are likely to become horrible mistakes. While further trees grown from any fruit on the tree may be awful, they may also be fabulous.

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