Tree created that can produce 40 stonefruit varieties - FreshFruitPortal.com

Tree created that can produce 40 stonefruit varieties

Grafting techniques have been used to create a tree that can produce 40 different stonefruit varieties, which ripen sequentially from July to October in the U.S.

While the Tree of 40 - which is located in New York - has artistic merit, it also serves other purposes.

Speaking to FreshFruitPortal.com, artist and tree creator Sam Van Aken, who is also a teacher at the University of Syracuse, said the tree helps to preserve what he considers to be heritage fruit varieties.

"Limited in space I can go into an orchard, collapse al the varieties onto a single tree to hold and continue to grow them until they can be re-grafted onto new rootstock for full-grown trees," he said.

In 2008, while looking for specimens to create a multicolored blossom tree as an art project, Van Aken acquired the 3 acres orchard of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which was closing due to funding cuts. 

He began to graft buds from some of the over 250 heritage varieties grown there, some unique, onto a stock tree. 

Over the course of about five years, the tree accumulated branches from forty different "donor" trees, each with a different fruit, including almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum varieties.

Each spring the tree's blossom is a mix of different shades of red, pink and white.

He had learned the techniques on the farm where he grew up in Pennsylvania. The same grafting technique can be used to create a similar tree for citrus fruits, he added.

Van Aken also commented that the tree could serve well very in the ever-growing urban agricultural sector as it offers a much longer harvest window than conventional trees.

"Whereas a typical fruit tree will cause an overabundance of one type of fruit within a week to two-week span over the summer as well as a scramble to figure out how to use all the fruit and or whom to give it away to, the Tree of 40 Fruit produces 10-20 pieces of fruit per variety from July into October," he said.

These trees have now been planted around the U.S., from California to Maine, and can be viewed in universities, museums and even some gardens.

While the Tree of 40 Fruit itself is unlikely to directly redefine the fruit industry, Van Aken believes that it can have a positive influence.

"I do believe that if it preserves and raises awareness about heritage fruit and all foods that were grown for centuries for their nutritional value and how well they taste instead of just sugar content and how well they keep in a box for weeks while shipping, I do believe it can have an impact," he said.