It's that time of year. A tree that looks like something from Dr. Seuss is about to bloom in Central New York.

The Tree of 40 Fruit was created by Sam Van Aken, an Associate Professor of Sculpture at Syracuse University. It sits outside Hinds Hall on the Shaw Quad. Every spring the tree blossoms into a mixture of red, pink, and white flowers, along with 40 different fruits.

Started as Art Project

It started as an art project in 2011 when Van Aken was looking to create a multicolored tree. Over the years, 40 different trees were added by grafting, a process that 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." The branches are then covered with tape until it heals and the bud starts to grow into a new branch.

"When I'd seen it done as a child it was Dr. Seuss and Frankenstein and just about everything fantastic."

READ MORE: This is Why You Should Never Carve Tree Bark

Credit - National Geographic via YouTube
Credit - National Geographic
via YouTube

Series of Trees

The Tree of 40 Fruit on the Syracuse University Campus was the first but it wasn't the last.

A series of trees have been planted around the country with each tree producing forty types of stone fruit, including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds, that ripen at different times from July through October.

READ MORE: It's Officially Spring! North Star Orchards Opens for Season

Tree of 40 Fruit Spreads

Van Aken has produced over a dozen Trees of 40 Fruit in a variety of locations, including community gardens, museums, and private collections in Massachusetts,  New Jersey, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Maine, and California.

"Part of the idea was to plant them in locations people would just stumble upon."

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Credit - Sam Van Aken
Credit - Sam Van Aken

Standford Tree of 40 Fruit

Stanford's Cantor Arts Center installed its own Tree of 40 Fruit in 2022.

"A remarkable work of art and conservation, it is only appropriate that it has been situated near another sacred space of art and conservation, Stanford's Rodin Sculpture Garden."

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10 Year Process

Van Aken lets his trees grow for about three years before coming in to start the grafting process. "It's essential an 8 to 10-year process."

But the years of work are worth it. "Every year it's something new," said Van Aken. "When you see the tree in full bloom it's an amazing experience. Plus you get fruit all summer."

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Van Aken plans to populate an entire city orchard with unique trees.

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