Building Trees

American artist Sam van Aken is taking everyone by surprise. Aken has taken two seemingly unrelated subjects, art and agriculture, and has created something beautiful beyond words.

The blossoming Tree of 40 Fruit. (Property of
The blossoming Tree of 40 Fruit. (Property of

The Tree of 40 Fruit was a project that started several years ago when Aken made it his “mission to combine the aesthetic of sculpture with the agricultural wonder of planting trees” (HuffingtonPost).   Through extensive research, Aken discovered that there are many, many varieties of stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, and cherries, that are not always extremely popular or well-known. He eventually bought an orchard that was going out of business where he was able to nurture and cultivate his hybrids, created through a methodical and meticulous process of grafting branches to the host tree.

Every addition is carefully diagrammed and kept track of, allowing Aken to have an idea of how the tree would look like at different parts of the year according to the various blooming and producing schedules. In this way, he is able to make a “living sculpture” that has become popular among collectors and some museums. On top of that, his labors are producing literal fruit.

The trees were displayed at an art exhibit of called “New Edens” held on the campus of Gettysburg College back in 2011. The tree both shocked and amazed, causing many to ask what was the purpose behind this almost Frankenstein-like creation. Aken wanted his viewers to decide for themselves what the message was, but it would be difficult to miss the Biblical references: 40 fruits to represent the 40 years of Moses in the wilderness and 40 days and nights of Noah’s voyage, also it’s a “Tree of Life” in Eden. The tape-wrapped buds also give light to the digital age in which we live (EveningSun). In other words, there’s a little something for everyone.

“I look at the Tree of 40 Fruit as an artwork, a research project, and a form of conservation,” says Aken in a TEDxManhatten presentation earlier this year (YouTube). He is changing how the world views art, agricultural, and the fruit which the tree produces, many of which are seldom produced heritage and native species. A complicated and magnificent feat that Aken has scientifically and artistically accomplished in this unique and important project.

To learn more about Sam van Aken’s projects, check out his website at:

Artist Sam Van Aken is silhouetted against an image of a full-grown hybridized fruit tree. (Property of
Artist Sam Van Aken is silhouetted against an image of a full-grown hybridized fruit tree. (Property of

I never thought I’d see a single tree produce more than one kind of fruit until I got to heaven, but Sam van Aken has proven that God truly has endowed mankind with remarkable creativity and knowledge to be able to accomplish amazing things. Wouldn’t be awesome to try one of this special tree’s fruits? Almost like a bit of heaven on earth.

-Wandering Minstrelette


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