23 July 2015

If you think this tree looks amazing, you should know it is also a scientific marvel. Using a “chip grafting” technique, art professor Sam Van Aken has created a series of ‘Frankenstein’ trees which are capable of producing 40 different types of stone fruit at once including peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries and almonds – and this month they’ll be ripe and ready to eat. Van Aken explained his method during a TEDx Manhattan talk.

He said: “I take a sliver off one of the trees that includes the bud, I insert it into a like-size incision in the working tree, tape it, let it sit and heal in all winter, then I prune it back and hope that it grows.” Van Aken’s experiments began in 2008 when he came across a neglected orchard on the verge of bankruptcy. He promptly bought the property and began splicing. The Tree of 40 Fruit project sees each tree take around five years to create, and has yielded 16 trees so far. They are planted in these locations around the United States. Speaking in a new video for National Geographic, Van Aken said: “Part of the idea behind the Tree of 40 Fruit was to plant them in locations that people would stumble upon them.

“And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colours?’”Explaining his inspiration to Huffington Post, he added: “I was able to see the grafting process while growing up on a farm and have always been fascinated by how one living thing cut could be cut inserted into another living thing and continue to grow.

“As this fascination evolved I came to see grafting used as a metaphor for sexuality such as in Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the modern man such as Frankenstein. Like the forms in these books I wanted the tree to be the beginning of a narrative. A form that when seen causes one to create narrative.”And guess what? The 16 trees involved in the project are currently entering harvest season and should soon be heavy with 40 different varieties of fruit…

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