Tree of 40 Fruit

"Tree 75" by SU Art Professor Sam Van Aken , 2008

The Tree of 40 Fruit, officially known as Tree 75, is a tree grafted with 40 different kinds of stone fruit trees (fruits with pits), created by SU Art Professor Sam Van Aken. The “living art” was dedicated in 2011 during a University 9/11 remembrance event, where Van Aken explained that it is a symbol of acceptance and dialogue across differences. Tree 75 is the first of its kind. When it reaches full maturity, it will have the capacity to grow some 40 different kinds of stone fruit—plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. The Tree of 40 Fruit on Syracuse’s campus, located on the quad walkway between Huntington-Beard-Crouse Hall and Hinds Hall, is the first of its kind. Today, there are 20 of these wondrous trees across the country.

Van Aken was inspired to play with grafting having grown up on a farm in Pennsylvania. The artist chose the number 40 for its historical and biblical significance as an amount that points to the infinite. Van Aken began developing dwarf stock trees of each variety of tree he would use for the Trees of 40 Fruit, which he grows in an outdoor nursery next to the Comstock Art Facility on campus. The nursery now serves year-round as a kind of mad-scientist laboratory where Van Aken does the grafting and his “inventions” come to life. Van Aken estimates that it takes at least nine years for a Tree of 40 Fruit to reach its peak—that is five years for the grafts to develop and another four for the different fruit to appear. Some individual trees, reportedly costing up to $30,000, have been purchased for private homes and museums.

Sam Van Aken is an Associate Professor, Studio Arts (Sculpture) at Syracuse University. He is known as a contemporary artist who brings various perspectives into his art through botany, agriculture, climatology and technology across various artistic genres. Rooted in his upbringing on a farm in Reading, Pennsylvania, Van Aken experiments with tree grafting with a wide variety of stone fruit trees, hence the Tree of 40 Fruit. He received his undergraduate education in Art and Communication Theory. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Van Aken lived in Poland working with dissident artists through the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. He has received a myriad of honors, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, an Association of International Curator’s of Art Award, and a Creative Capital Grant. Currently, he continues to be actively involved in the nursery at the Comstock Art Facility and sharing his knowledge and expertise with the Syracuse University community.

Information and Images Provided By:

SU University Archives; Rieland, R. (2015). "A Tree Grows 40 Different Types of Fruit." Smithsonian Magazine; Tree of 40 Fruit. (2019). Everson Museum of Art. (2019); Speach, A. (2018). "Sculptor Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit." SU website; Herbert, G. (2019). "Tree of 40 Fruit: SU professor’s trees with 40 different kinds of fruit will inspire you." SU News; Images provided by artist Sam Van Aken’s personal collection.

Next Nearest

Art Installation Arcitectural Feature