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Syracuse, New York

Tree of 40 Fruit

A Frankenstein blend of science and art allows one tree to produce 40 different types of stone fruit. 

There’s an odd tree planted in a nondescript plot of mulch alongside the quad at Syracuse University. During the long central New York winter, the tree looks like any other: its branches barren, its trunk wrapped in a thick blanket of snow. But during the spring, it blossoms into a patchwork of pink, white, and red flowers. In the summer, it yields more than three dozen different kinds of fruit.

Though it seems like the tree may be the secret parent of some sort of wild fruit salad, it’s actually the work of artist and Syracuse University professor Sam Van Aken.

It’s a Tree of 40 Fruit, a Frankenstein mashup of art and science that, as its name suggests, produces 40 types of fruit. This particular model, called “Tree 75,” is one of about a dozen others the artist has cultivated.

A Tree of 40 Fruit bears a whole smorgasbord of sweet treats. Its many branches produce stone fruit such as cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, and almonds.

Van Aken began his project in 2008, after acquiring three acres of a soon-to-be-closing orchard run by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Rather than let the orchard’s unique strains of stone fruit varieties become lost forever, he decided to preserve them by grafting their buds onto a single tree.

He planted Tree 75 on the SU campus in 2011. Though it took a few years, the tree, which sports a mishmash of grafted branches from various donor specimens, now yields a diverse bounty.

Know Before You Go

Tree 75 is near the Syracuse University quad, between H.B. Crouse Hall and the iSchool.