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Activists Covertly Grafting Fruit Branches Onto Decorative Trees In San Francisco

by Megan Goldsby

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- If you're walking down the street in San Francisco and see a tree branch heavy with fruit, it just may be the work of a group who call themselves Guerrilla Grafters.

They are a collection of activists and artists who use a technique called grafting to attach fruit tree scions, or baby branches, to maturing decorative trees.   The practice of modifying city trees is illegal, so the grafters have to do their work in secret, sometimes working in the dark of night.

Margaretha Haughwout, who is a teacher and a grafter says they work to involve the neighbors who live near the trees, asking them to become stewards of their new tiny orchard.

City officials have said that the fruit could become hazardous if it drops on to the ground, and critics say it could bring rodents. The Guerilla Grafters disagree, saying that the idea is not only to feed people who can't afford fresh fruit, but to get neighbors talking to each other.

"Really, when you introduce new life into a neighborhood then you're also introducing new kinds of relationships," said Haughwout.

The group has been around for several years, meaning that there are already some branches that are producing fruit, but Haughwout says people should soon see many more.

"It can take up to two to five years for a grafted branch to begin to bear fruit, so it is true that in 2018 or 2019, all of a sudden, urban residents may begin to see an abundance of fruit in their neighborhood," said Haughwout.

The group won't release the locations of their grafts, though you may be able to spot one by looking for tiny brightly colored bits of tape on ornamental fruit trees.


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