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Ginkgo Biloba Trees

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Picture of autumn leaf of Ginkgo biloba tree (gingko).

Picture of the fall foliage color of Ginkgo biloba trees. Click "More Images" to access the mini-photo gallery.

David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of Ginkgo Biloba Trees:

This is a case where plant taxonomy agrees with everyday lingo. The scientific name for these plants, Ginkgo biloba is more commonly used than the common name, "maidenhair-trees." An alternate spelling is, "gingko biloba," which does, in fact, correspond more closely to how people pronounce the name.

Plant Type:

Ginkgo biloba trees are broadleaf, deciduous trees. They are also dioecious.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Ginkgo Biloba:

Grow Ginkgo biloba trees in planting zones 4-9.

Characteristics:

Ginkgo biloba trees reach 50'-80' in height, with a spread of 30'-40'. Their uniquely fan-shaped leaves start out green but morph into a golden fall foliage. Before the whole leaf turns golden, there's sometimes a stage that I especially enjoy, during which the leaf is two-toned, with separate bands of gold and green.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Ginkgo Biloba Trees:

While you should plant Ginkgo biloba trees in full sun to partial shade, they are not fussy about their soil, so long as it is well-drained. Although you must water new transplants sufficiently to help them become established, later they will be relatively drought-tolerant trees.

Uses in Landscaping:

Ginkgo biloba trees are attractive enough to function as specimen plants, particularly because of their golden fall foliage.They are disease-resistant and tolerate urban pollution. The latter quality make them sensible choices for planting along city streets, where they can grow into tall shade trees. At the other end of the spectrum, they are also used for Japanese bonsai.

Caveat in Growing Ginkgo Biloba Trees:

Whether for city streets or people's yards, the male trees are preferred. Female trees bear a fruit-like product which, after dropping on a street or driveway, not only emits a foul odor, but is also slippery. You would probably want to clean up the mess, making this specimen high-maintenance. The fruit is about the size of a cherry tomato (see picture). "Autumn Gold" is a popular male cultivar.

Interesting Facts:

Botanical.com recognizes Ginkgo biloba as "the oldest living tree on the planet that's been used safely for over 3000 years," noting that this relic from dinosaur times "was nearly wiped out during the Ice Age everywhere except in China."

The Ginkgo Pages website relates that those Chinese Ginkgo biloba trees were mainly found in monasteries "in the mountains and in palace and temple gardens, where Buddhist monks cultivated the tree from about 1100 AD for its many good qualities." Plant collectors from the West eventually were sold on Ginkgo biloba trees and brought specimens home.

The tree's "good qualities" included medicinal and culinary uses, exploited for centuries in both China and Japan. Roasted nuts from Ginkgo biloba trees have long been considered a delicacy in their native China. The trees medicinal qualities are now recognized in the West, too. Treatment for short-term memory loss is just one of many medicinal uses for the extract derived from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba trees.

More on Fall Foliage Trees:

Ash Trees
Quaking Aspens
Autumn Blaze Maples
Beech Trees
Birches
Dogwoods
Maples
Japanese Maples
Shagbark Hickory
Sumac
Oak Trees
Tulip Trees
American Sweetgums
Sunburst Honey Locusts

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