When artist and professor Sam Van Aken was a kid, he first saw the process of bud or chip grafting trees, adding a budding branch to a host tree so that they join together. At the time, he thought it was “Dr. Seuss and Frankenstein and just about everything fantastic…”

His art project as an adult, Tree of 40 Fruit, now uses this skill to join antique, heirloom, and native varieties of stone fruits — peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries… any fruit with pits (plus some almonds for the look of their beautiful flowers) — onto the same tree, creating a multicolor blossoming tree in spring and a veritable fruit market in the summer. From National Geographic:

The grafting process involves slicing a bit of a branch with a bud from a tree of one of the varieties and inserting it into a slit in a branch on the “working tree,” then wrapping the wound with tape until it heals and the bud starts to grow into a new branch. Over several years he adds slices of branches from other varieties to the working tree.

A handful of Van Aken’s trees are now living across the United States. This artist’s rendering is an example of the live agricultural sculpture in bloom, juxtaposed with his drawn diagram of one of his trees:

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Related listening at NPR: The Gift Of Graft – New York Artist’s Tree To Grow 40 Kinds Of Fruit.

Watch this next: How Does It Grow? Apples.

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