Ginkgo

One of my favorite trees is the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), also known as the maidenhair tree.

The ginkgo is an ancient survivor from prehistoric times, approximately 200 million years ago. This living link to the dinosaurs has changed little in the intervening years. Today the ginkgo is native only in two small areas of China where it was able to persist through the ice ages. Yet for hundreds of years it has been cultivated in gardens, parks and along city streets throughout the world as an ornamental.

A long-lived, elegant tree, the ginkgo has leaves that are fan shaped or have two shallow lobes. The veins fan out from the narrow end. A light green in spring and a more grey green in the summer, the leaves turn a brilliant gold before falling, seemingly all at once, in the autumn producing a yellow “carpet” under the tree. The male tree produces pollen on small cone-like structures. The tiny flowers on the female tree develop into a fleshy fruit that resembles a plum and contains an edible seed. The bark is corky and brown to grey in color.

The reproductive cycle of the ginkgo is complex. Suffice it for now to note that the ginkgo is unusual among seed-bearing plants in that there are separate male and female plants. Most of the ginkgo trees that one sees are male because as the fruits of the female tree decay they become foul-smelling and slimy creating a hazard in the public places ginkgo trees are usually found.

Ginkgo trees are also know as maidenhair trees because their leaves resemble the leaflets of maidenhair ferns.

I rarely see ginkgo trees as our local climate is not suited to their growth – and the nearest city streets and parks are over a hundred  miles away. This magnificent ginkgo was photographed near the Konpira Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan.

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4 Responses to Ginkgo

  1. usermattw says:

    We have them planted ornamentally around here, and I think of you when I see them. 🙂

  2. Isn’t it’s ancient lineage a marvellous wonder. We have one here, right on the south western tip of Africa, growing in the local botanical garden. I like to pay homage :).

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