“Guerilla Grafters” Secretly Graft Fruit-Bearing Branches Onto Sterile City Trees

May 30, 2020 at 7:06 pm

These rebels are grafting “forbidden fruit” onto ornamental urban trees, and cities doesn’t know how to stop them!

A group of food freedom fighters are sneaking out in the middle of the night (and sometimes in broad daylight) grafting fruit-producing limbs onto sterile urban trees, specifically bred not to bear fruit.

Known as the “Guerilla Grafters,” their mission is to provide free, healthy food where it’s needed most – urban food deserts.

Ever wonder why none of the trees in big cities produce anything useful, like nuts or fruit? According to the Guerilla Grafters, it’s because they are intentionally bred not to.

City planners specifically select sterile varieties of many common fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, cherries) because of their beauty to decorate their streets.

But they don’t want to be held liable for any potentially slippery messes fallen fruit could create on city sidewalks, or any animals it could attract (think bees, birds, squirrels).

You can image how quickly wildlife could become a problem in the concrete jungle. But maybe that’s the problem with cities. They aren’t wild enough. At least that’s what the Guerilla Grafters think.

The movement started in 2012 in San Francisco, home to 10,000 fruitless fruit trees.

The group’s founder Tara Hui tried using all the legal avenues to get the city to legalize fruit trees, but went rogue when she realized that was getting her nowhere.

She has since formed a group of dozens of stealth grafters in the San Francisco Bay Area, with thousands of followers on Facebook, many of whom have formed grafting groups in their own cities.

Miriam Goldstein and Tara Hui grafting. CREDIT: San Franscisco Chronicle

Grafting branches onto trees is like “like tongue and groove in carpentry,” Hui explains.

The spliced branches are taped up in color coded electrical tape, so volunteers can monitor the trees and make sure fruit is harvested and not wasted.

“Once it heals, it connects,” Hui said. “Basically the branch becomes part of the tree.”

And by that time, it’s too late for the city to do anything about it, the grafters boast.

“It’s like the gardener’s version of graffiti,” UC Davis landscape architecture professor Claire Napawan told the LA Times. “Even if there’s some question about its ability to produce enough food to make a difference … as an awareness piece, it’s a good idea.”