Award-winning artist Sam Van Aken has grown a hybridised fruit tree that produces 40 different varieties of stone fruit each year.
An art professor from Syracuse University in the US, Van Aken grew up on a family farm before pursuing a career as an artist, and has combined his knowledge of the two to develop his incredible Tree of 40 Fruit.
In 2008, Van Aken learned that an orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station was about to be shut down due to a lack of funding. This single orchard grew a great number of heirloom, antique, and native varieties of stone fruit, and some of these were 150 to 200 years old. To lose this orchard would render many of these rare and old varieties of fruit extinct, so to preserve them, Van Aken bought the orchard, and spent the following years figuring out how to graft parts of the trees onto a single fruit tree.
After about five years and several grafted branches, Van Aken’s first Tree of 40 Fruit was complete.
Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit looks like a normal tree for most of the year, but in spring it reveals a stunning patchwork of pink, white, red and purple blossoms, which turn into an array of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and almonds during the summer months, all of which are rare and unique varieties.
Van Aken has grown 16 Trees of 40 Fruit so far, and they’ve been planted in museums, community centres, and private art collections around the US.