This unusual tree is the brainchild of Sam Van Aken, an artist and professor at Syracuse University, who combined a little history, art and science to create it.
The tree bears 40 different types of stone fruits. So essentially you could find on it anything from plums, peaches and apricots to cherries, almonds and nectarines. If that weren't cool enough, Aken found several heirloom and antique varieties of fruit that are very rare, brought them back to his nursery and grafted them onto a tree so he could continue to use them. How's that for preserving the past?
Aken tells National Geographic that he used a technique called "chip grafting" to create the Tree of 40 Fruit. The painstaking process requires him — over the course of several years — to slice branches with buds from different varieties of fruit trees and then splice them all into a branch on a "working tree." Then he has to wrap the graft with clear plastic, which creates a greenhouse effect that allows the graft to heal. Hey, humidity is good for something after all!
By spring, the tree blooms in an explosion of pink and purple. And by summer, it begins to bear different varieties of fruits in sequence. But it took Aken a few tries before he nailed it.
"When I first started," he tells National Geographic in the video below, "I just sort of grafted the branches on. So each variety blossoms at a slightly different time, and I had a tree that blossomed all on one side but looked dead on the other. From that point on, I created a timeline of when all these different varieties blossomed in relationship to each other so I could essentially sculpt how the tree would blossom."
He planted the first tree in 2011 and although it has 40 varieties of fruit grafted in, Aken estimates it will be three or four years before it's at peak blossom. He's also planted more than a dozen trees at different sites across the United States. Click here to see if there's one of these beauties near you.