Behold the 40-fruit tree, and a boring Willy Wonka reboot

Stocks ended in mixed territory following a day of merger news and positive economic data. The Dow fell 30 points, with 21 of its 30 components declining; the S&P 500 Index lost 1 point; and the Nasdaq gained 17. Decliners led advancers by 10 to 9 on the NYSE, while advancers led decliners by 3 to 2 on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures fell $22.40 to close at $1,265.00 an ounce, as the U.S. dollar rallied against foreign currencies and reached its highest level in more than a year. The price of crude oil fell $3.08 to settle at $92.88 a barrel.

In Other Business News:

  • U.S. construction spending in July rose 1.8%, a rebound from June’s revised 0.9% decline and the largest one-month gain in more than two years, according to the Commerce Department. Increased spending on residential, commercial, and public projects boosted total construction to an annual pace of $981.3 billion, the highest level since December 2008. Year over year, spending increased 8.2%.
  • The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index improved in August to its highest level since March 2011, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The index increased from 57.1 to 59.0; a reading above 50 indicates expansion. New orders rose to their highest level since April 2004, while employment fell slightly from 58.2 to 58.1.
  • Dollar General Corp.’s shares (DG) rose 0.58% after raising its bid to acquire competing discount chain Family Dollar to $9.1 billion. The move marks the latest salvo in Dollar General’s efforts to outbid Dollar Tree, which has offered $8.5 million for the deal. To address Family Dollar’s concerns over antitrust issues, Dollar General offered to divest up to 1,500 stores if needed to clear the acquisition with regulators. Family Dollar’s shares (FDO) gained 0.49%, and Dollar Tree’s shares (DLTR) rose 1.56%.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ shares (NCLH) climbed 11.05% after agreeing to buy rival luxury cruise operator Prestige Cruises International Inc. from private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC. The deal, which is valued at $3.03 billion, will add eight luxury ships to Norwegian’s existing fleet. Shares of Apollo Global Management (APO), which also has a 20% stake in Norwegian, fell 1.72%.


Fusing artistic skill with an agricultural upbringing, Syracuse University Visual Arts Professor Sam Van Aken designed a tree that grows 40 different types of fruit, according to

Using an abandoned orchard as his palette, Van Aken built the tree by grafting branches from a wide range of fruit-bearing trees—including cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots—and fusing them onto a single base.

There are now 16 different “Trees of 40 Fruit,” as they’re called, across the U.S., housed in museums, community centers, private art collections—and one tree that lives on campus at Syracuse University (whose mascot, coincidentally, is an orange).

While the professor has brushed aside grandiose notions that his tree can achieve such feats as ending world hunger, he hopes it “can lead to that type of thinking.”

My big idea (for what it’s worth): Van Aken’s tree could help local farm-share programs attract more customers by providing a convenient way to offer a greater variety of fruit on a consistent basis.

The 40-fruit tree could also provide an exciting new attraction for the discerning fruit-picking hobbyist who seeks to differentiate himself or herself from the pack.

Oh, you’re going apple picking this weekend? How quaint; I’m going to a family farm where you can pick 40 different fruits at the same time, including European plums that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. But I’m sure you’ll have fun, too.

Entrepreneurial ponderings aside, I can’t help but also think of the 40-fruit tree’s pop culture implications.

Van Aken’s creation brings to mind the strange menagerie of edible inventions featured in Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is seeing renewed interest this week upon the release of a lost fifth chapter. That chapter, incidentally, was scrapped by editors after being deemed “too subversive” for print—you know, because the rest of the story wasn’t at all alarming or graphic.

If the editors are still interested in something less subversive, here’s a thought: A 2014 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot in which every product in Willy Wonka’s factory is farm-grown and nutritious, including the magical 40-fruit tree, and no one gets hurt—they just become healthier. One downside to this version: It’s hard to imagine the Oompa Loompas staying as scary as in the original when droning on about the farm-to-table movement.

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