The series of “Frankenstein” hybrid trees produced by Syracuse University Professor Sam Van Aken are ready to for harvest. The New York art professor used a grafting technique to create the hybrid plants, which were then planted at several sites across the country.
The Tree of 40 Fruits project -- initiated by Van Aken in 2008 -- yielded 16 trees that have the capability to bear 40 varieties of fruit, including plums, peaches, almonds and cherries. Among the locations where the trees were planted are Newton, Massachusetts; San Jose, California; Short Hills, New Jersey; Pound Ridge, New York, and Bentonville, Arkansas.
Van Aken said he strategically chose locations where people were most likely to see them. He grew the grafted trees in different types of locations, including private collections, museums and community gardens. The professor said he hopes the branches of all 16 trees will be laden soon.
“And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colors?’ ” Van Aken said in the 4-minute video recently released by National Geographic. According to the horticulturist's official website, the Tree of 40 Fruit blooms in white, crimson and pink.
Van Aken explained the chip grafting technique he used during a TedxManhattan talk. In 2008, Van Aken accidentally stumbled upon a nearly bankrupt orchard. He decided to buy the property, marking the beginning of the Tree of 40 Fruits project.