The rumors of the hoax have been greatly exaggerated.
There’s been a lot of chatter about a fruit tree.
An Australian nursery has been making a big splash on food and gardening sites with its trees that are said to bear six or so different fruit. The Fruit Salad Tree Company sells a peach-apricot-plum-nectarine tree, a lemon-orange-lime-tangerine-grapefruit-mandarin-pomelo tree, and apple and pear trees that grow red-green-yellow varieties all in one.
Not everyone is buying it.
Crop circles, the Jackalope, and now the fruit cocktail tree?
It sounds like the stuff of fairy tales; a mythical tree from which you can pluck a whole fruit basket of varieties. But it’s the real deal, and it’s actually nothing new.
Fruit cocktail trees have been around even longer than canned fruit cocktail.
They’re not hybrids or genetically modified, but are created by grafting—attaching the fruit-bearing branches of one tree onto the roots and trunk of another. It’s a simple technique that’s been around for centuries; Aristotle wrote of it in ancient Greece, and even the apostle Paul talks about grafting olive trees in the King James Bible. And I do mean simple: cut the branch from one tree and jam it into a hole you made in the other. If the central tissues make good contact, they’ll fuse together into a single, growing organism.
Grafting is also incredibly common.
Nearly every California lemon is grown on an orange tree base, and in Florida most oranges are grown on lemon trees. Most apples come from grafts, and it’s standard practice for grape growers. Kids everywhere grow pomato plants for their school science fairs, grafting potatoes and tomatoes into a single plant that grows tomatoes above ground and potatoes below.
It’s old, it’s common, so why all the skepticism?
A few years ago, there was a well-known hoax involving a 94-year old Welshman and his 30-year old backyard apple tree. The tree was quite a media sensation when it began producing plums and blackberries, drawing horticulturalists and journalists from across Britain. Alas, it was a fake, although the owner claimed to have had no part in it. Gardeners everywhere felt burned, and it seems they have long memories.
The Australian nursery doesn’t send its trees to the U.S., but there are plenty of domestic growers who will ship you a fruit cocktail tree, including Calloway’s, House of Wesley, Citrus Splitzer, and DirectGardening.com. And if you’re still skeptical, you can check the integrity of the grower through The Garden Watchdog.