As if plucked from the pages of a fantastical children’s book, sixteen trees especially cultivated by an artist in the US will soon be heaving with forty different types of fruit as they enter their harvest season.
Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries and almonds begin ripening on the Tree of 40 Fruit in July.
To create the plants, New York-based artist Sam van Aken painstakingly collected heirloom stone fruits - which are not commercially available - and fused them onto a single tree using a technique called grafting.
Van Aken gathered the young shoots from different fruit trees and stored them until spring. He then replaced buds on an existing tree with shoots he had collected.
By noting down when each fruit blossomed, he was able to “sculpt” the tree.
The result is trees awash with flowers in hues of pink, crimson and white when in blossom, and weighed down by a multitude of stone fruits by autumn.
Van Aken explains on his website that he chose to stop at 40 because it is a symbol of “the infinite, a bounty that is beyond calculation” in western culture.
However, the trees also have a scientific use, he says, with “far-reaching implications for genetic engineering [and] biodiversity versus food monoculture”.
The trees currently stand in locations including Newton, Massachusetts; Pound Ridge, New York; Short Hills, New Jersey; Bentonville, Arkansas; and San Jose, California.
“The idea came from a fascination with the process of grafting. When I’d seen it done as a child it was Dr Seus and Fraknestein and just about everything fantastic,” he told National Geographic.Reuse content