8.25.2010

Ginkgo, the Living Fossil

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Ginkgo is my favorite tree. There are many trees I hold in high regard and would eagerly include in a landscape. But it is the Ginkgo that holds the top spot with me.

The Ginkgo’s ancestors date back to the Paleozoic period, 225-280 million years ago. Common in the landscape, it is believed to be extinct in the wild. Once there were several species. Today, only Ginkgo biloba remains. (There are many cultivars to choose from.)
Buddhist monks cherished the tree, preserving it in their temple gardens for generations, saving the tree from extinction.
It is also called the Maidenhair tree for its 2-4 inch fan-shaped leaves look much like the maidenhair fern’s leaflets. The female produces edible nuts that emit a very off-putting odor once they fall. One is well advised not to plant female trees around pedestrian areas.

The best way to experience a Ginkgo is to stand beneath one and peer up into its canopy. In the spring and summer, the sun turns the fan-shaped leaves a bright, clean, green color. To me, it looks as if the leaves capture and then glow from the sun’s light.

In the fall the leaves put on a spectacular display of crisp, pure yellow color. Enjoy it while you can, the Ginkgo drops its leaves in a flurry, as if a giant shiver ran up its truck and out its branches, shaking the leaves to the ground.
Facts
Don’t be deceived by juvenile trees which appear awkward and a bit weak in appearance. This majestic tree gets better with age.
80 ft. tall, 30-80 ft. wide. Massive, horizontal branches create a light, airy feel. Full sun, deep well drained acid or alkaline soil. Will tolerate road salt, pollution, drought and heat, but cringes when placed in poorly drained soils. Zone 4-8. Native to China and according to Dirr, North America at one time as well.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! It's wonderful that you like this tree. I fell in love with it in Botanische Garten Bonn walking under its nearly horisontal branches. It was so delicate with those fabulous leaves. Your post reminds me to include it in my garden plan.

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