Man cultivates tree that grows 250 different varieties of apple

apples on branch photo
CC BY 2.0 Daisy Waring World

To say that Paul Barnett loves apples is probably an understatement; he's more of a connoisseur with an appetite for them all. But with so many apple varieties in existence, from Ambrosas to York Imperials, cultivating even a fraction would normally require acres and acres of fruit trees. Paul, on the other hand, only had room for one -- so he had to make the most of it.

And boy, did he ever.

For the last two and half decades, the 40-year-old Chidham, English horticulturalists has been busy creating what might be best described as an apple-sampler tree. Over the years, Paul has managed to successfully graft tissue from hundreds of apple plants onto a single tree in his backyard, satisfying his taste for the fleshy fruit in all its colors, shapes, sizes, and tastes.

Today, the tree produces an incredible 250 distinct apple varieties!

"I wanted to grow my own trees but I didn't have the space to plant that number so I started a 'family tree' where I can have all the different varieties in one space," says Paul.

Although the process of grafting, whereby one plant grows into another to share a single vascular system, is a naturally occurring phenomenon, humans have been using it to their advantage since at least 2000 BC. Paul's apple tree is a remarkable example of extreme grafting put in practice -- but with an additional 7,250 apple varieties yet to grace its branches, his work towards a pan-apple tree is not yet finished.

Tags: Biology | Fruits & Vegetables

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