41 is right out.
July 4, 2019 8:35 PM   Subscribe

The Tree of 40 Fruit is a project by artist Sam Van Aken to graft 40 different kinds of heirloom stone fruit onto one tree.

It's an artwork that develops over time and season. At first it looks like a regular tree. With the different fruit grafts come the surprise of different blossom colors and different blossoming times. Then comes the fruit! "Additionally, when I place a Tree of 40 Fruit, I go to local farmers and growers to collect stone fruit varieties and graft them to the trees. In this way they become an archive of the agricultural history of where they are located as well as a means to preserve antique and native varieties."

The website for the tree project.

A National Geographic video about his creative reasoning in making the trees. (slyt)

A fascinating article in Epicurious about Van Aken and his reasons behind creating the tree(s).

"Sam Van Aken combines new technologies with traditional modes of art making to create projects that cross boundaries as they explore such themes as communication, botany, agriculture, climatology, and the ever-increasing impact of technology."
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee (22 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
This is very neat.
posted by cortex at 9:50 PM on July 4, 2019

This is cool, great to see real horticulture and critical landscape alive and well and proving what can be done with conventional breeding and pruning and unconventional thinking.

My father-in-law once grafted 13 different heritage apple trees in a circle and it was his guidance that led me to hort and eventually landscape.
posted by unearthed at 9:58 PM on July 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

41 is right out.

Well of course it is - a swallow couldn't carry more than 40 fruits at the absolute most.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:31 PM on July 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

Once the number forty, being the fortieth number, be reached, then pickest thou thy Stone Fruit of Heirloom and give it to thy foe, who, being hungry in My sight, shall eat it.
posted by Zedcaster at 11:08 PM on July 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Today I learned that almonds are in the peach family.
posted by killdevil at 5:41 AM on July 5, 2019

For those of you in/near NYC currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt UES as part of their triennial

posted by lalochezia at 5:51 AM on July 5, 2019

This is so cool! So happy you posted it.
posted by veggieboy at 5:55 AM on July 5, 2019

What are the limitations around rootstock and grafting? I presume you can't graft peach trees and apple trees together, for example, because all of the items on his tree are stone fruit.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:47 AM on July 5, 2019

You can totally graft anything together, with a little work. That's how we wound up with amazing banana peppers, and those weird cows that give us apple butter. The hens have been laying, and this year's batch of chickpeas are about to fall off the vine, ready to hatch!
posted by xedrik at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2019 [12 favorites]

They're all prunus.
posted by aniola at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is a fascinating idea. I've seen similar multi-variety trees of apple with 4-5 different varieties on one tree, intended for smaller gardens. The problem with them is that the more vigorous varieties tend to overgrow the weaker ones if you are not careful with pruning, and there is a tendency for weakness at the graft points.

They used to be called imp trees, from the very old word "imp" meaning graft, and one fairytale book of my childhood had a story called "The Imp Tree", which was a very odd retelling of Orpheus and Euridice where Orpheus (Sir Orfeo) rescues his wife from the king of the fairies, after she falls asleep under the tree. , which suggests that such trees may have had some sort of, er, reputation in the middle ages.
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:51 AM on July 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

How beautiful! And, I assume, delicious.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:25 AM on July 5, 2019

I can see the appeal, but it’s got a slight Frankenstein aspect for me.
posted by Segundus at 9:27 AM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember reading something about a person who had a tree with over a hundred varieties of apple on it. I thought from here but searching didn't find it. I can find a BBC link to a person in the UK who'd grafted 250 kinds of apple on a tree which is impressive but not what I was thinking of as I seemed to remember it was an artist who was doing it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Back in 2000 I bought a house in Seattle that had a medium sized apple tree that never bloomed (the leaves gave it away that it was an apple tree). A few years later I noticed there was an tag on the tree that I had missed and it identified as an apple variety called Anna . The Anna was developed in Israel and is a variety for hot climates, and the weather in Seattle was clearly not conducive for it to bear fruit.

So, I found out the Washington State University would sell scions of large variety of apples to the general public (they don't appear to do that anymore, but list where you can get them now). After reading up on tree grafting, without really knowing what I was doing, I ordered eleven scions of different varieties.

Grafting the scions on wasn't too hard: find a branch about the same diameter as the scion, cut both diagonally, make sure the cambium (green cells in a circle in the branch) match up, tape the branch and scion together and coast with a rubber sealant.

Of the eleven scions, seven survived. Four of them never grew much at all over a number of years, but three of them really took off, and starting bearing fruit in a couple of years. Later I did a bark graft with a couple scions of the variety Karmijn de Sonnaville (I don't remember the other varieties I grafted). The Karmijn de Sonnaville grafts took off well, but I moved from the house before they bore fruit.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:10 PM on July 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

Doesn't the tree spirit get kind of confused?
posted by Mesaverdian at 2:23 PM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

That is so awesome. I want one for my yard.
posted by kathrynm at 3:06 PM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can also graft tomatoes onto potato plants. They're both nightshades. See: ketchup & french fry plants.
posted by aniola at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tree grafting always seems like total mad science to me, if I ever get a garden I can't wait to grow franken-trees.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:16 PM on July 5, 2019

You can also graft tomatoes onto potato plants.

But be wary of tomato / tobacco hybrids.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:09 AM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember reading about him a few years ago and trying to see if it would be feasible for me to try. Not owning a yard, the answer of course was 'no'. But if you're in Australia there's a company that sells "fruit salad" trees pre-grafted for stone fruit, citrus, or apples. Not being in Australia, that solution was twice as unfeasible for me.
posted by sysinfo at 6:32 PM on July 7, 2019

Fruit salad trees are a common thing here in Canada as well.
posted by Mitheral at 9:56 AM on July 9, 2019

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