The Vatican Gardens has branched out and added a small orchard to its hillsides, becoming a safe haven for a number of endangered native Italian fruit and nut tree species.
If all goes well with weather and pollination, the eight new saplings planted behind St Peter’s Basilica should be bearing fruit in just a few years. Hopes are for a harvest including pomegranates that can weigh as much as three pounds each and a natural hybrid fruit called the “susincocco,” which could be translated as a “plumpricot” – a dark red fruit that has the juiciness of a plum with the tastiness and velvety feel of an apricot.
The Italian tree conservation association, “Patriarchi della Natura,” made the donation as part of its national effort to protect biodiversity by collecting and propagating native tree species that are threatened or in danger of extinction in their natural habitats.
Sergio Guidi, the association’s president, greeted Pope Francis at the end of his Wednesday general audience on 18th April with a large potted tree decorated with a big yellow bow.
“The Pope’s Orchard” will be a small “field gene bank” or collection of living plant species in need of protection, the association said.
Picture: Rafael Tornini, director of the Vatican Gardens, Sergio Guidi, president of an Italian tree conservation association, and Vincenzo Soldano, who works in the Vatican Gardens, are pictured after the planting of one of eight donated saplings in the Vatican Gardens on 18th April. The saplings were from tree species that are threatened or endangered with extinction. (CNS photo/courtesy Gabriele Piazzoli, Patriarchi della Natura).