The tree that bears forty fruits

It is a project launched in 2008. It was initiated by Sam Van Aken, a professor of the arts at Syracuse University in New York. It transcends art, agriculture and conservation. It is the tree that bears forty fruits. He defines it as “a living capsule of biodiversity”.

This is the tree that bears forty fruits in full bloom.
This is the tree that bears forty fruits, in full bloom.

Grafting species

There are several specimens. The grafting technique is used. A section of a branch is cut to join it with that of another species. The tissues of both are brought together at the point of union. The graft grows by absorbing nutrients indirectly. The result is a tree that can bear flowers and fruits of many varieties. As many as grafts can be performed.

Thus, it can perpetuate and extend the fruit varieties that are more appetizing, productive or resistant. For practical purposes what is achieved is to “clone” in a natural way a selected specimen. There is also an adaptive function. This is because it is the trunk that is in contact with the ground. Species with difficulties to grow in a certain environment can survive by being grafted.

For a graft to be successful, it must belong to the same botanical genus as the base species. Professor Van Aken’s trees belong to the genus Prunus. It groups peach, plum, cherry and apricot trees; in multiple varieties.

These are fruits obtained from a single tree, very diverse from each other.
These are the fruits obtained from a single tree, very diverse from each other.

Varieties that are lost

When spring arrives, they bloom in various shades of white and pink. In summer, 40 different varieties of the above-mentioned fruits appear. The process takes several years. Grafting is done in spring, and one waits a whole year to see if it works. And another two or three years for them to begin to bear fruit.

“One hundred years ago, there were 2,000 varieties of peaches grown in the United States. There were nearly 2,000 of plums and nearly 800 of apples. Today only a fraction of these remain.” The tree bearing forty fruits can serve as a seed saving project.

Van Aken received a proposal to create a garden open to the public on Governors Island in New York Bay. There he would plant 40 fruit trees. It is planned to grow 50 trees with more than 200 varieties of fruit in all. It will be a sensory experience.

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