Fruit cocktail trees

Horticulturists have had a lot of fun creating fruit cocktail trees, which is a single tree that bears a variety of different fruit.

The concept of creating a fruit cocktail tree is simple. It’s done through grafting limbs of different fruit trees all onto a single common stalk (often called the rootstock) or tree that functions as the base or foundation for all the different grafts. The genetics of each graft do not mix with the genetics of the parent tree even though it becomes a part of that tree, thus each graft still produces its specific type of fruit.

A couple of things to keep in mind with fruit cocktail trees . . . The more genetically distant the grafts are from the tree base, the more likely the graft will fail, whether immediately or shortly after. Grafting plant material that is from the same plant will have perfect or nearly perfect success, grafting within the same species has a good but lower rate of success, grafting within the same genus will have quite a bit less success, and grafting between botanical families is generally considered to be physiologically impossible.

Here’s what that means: A tree that is a fruit cocktail of different apples (McIntosh, Fuji, Cameo, Red Delicious, etc.) will have a much higher chance of grafting success then a fruit cocktail tree of apples, cherries, apricots, plums, and pears on it, even though these are all somewhat related genetically. The apple cocktail tree is formed with grafts from different species of apples but within a single genus (Malus). The second fruit cocktail tree contains grafts from different genera (plural for genus) but within one family (Rosaceae – the rose family) – this is much less likely to be successful.

A fruit cocktail tree with peaches and oranges on it, for example, could never exist because they’re from different families altogether (the rose family and the citrus family, respectively). The picture to the left is a fruit cocktail tree of the citrus family.

Fruit cocktail trees – as cool as they are – tend to be weaker trees, and more likely to have poor health, and thus tend to be shorter-lived than normal fruit trees. This makes sense if you consider all the different and independent ‘personalities’ the parent tree has to cope with: though genetically similar, the grafts still have their different needs and demands. The more genetically dissimilar the grafts are from the parent tree, the more stressful, and thus the more short-lived the whole tree will be.

Fruit cocktail trees are really a fascinating creation, but they are expensive and short-lived. Unless you have the money or you’re simply a plant nerd, then fruit cocktail trees are probably not for you. But if you do want to purchase one, I found a pretty good website where you can order one with peaches, plums, and nectarines here, and here’s one with 4 different types of apple (we’re not affiliated with them).

As I said, these trees are rather rare and try as I might, I have not found an established, producing one myself.

About the Author JohnW

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