Ginkgo Biloba Picture Gallery

Ginkgo leaves Paleocene USA Museum of Natural History in Vienna

U.Name.Me/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

 Ginkgo biloba is known as a "living fossil tree". It is a mysterious tree old species. The ginkgo tree's genetic line spans the Mesozoic era back to the Triassic period. Closely related species are thought to have existed for over 200 million years.

Also known as maidenhair-tree, the leaf shape and other vegetative organs are identical to fossils found in the United States, Europe, and Greenland. The contemporary ginkgo is cultivated and does not exist anywhere in the wild state. Scientists think that native ginkgo was destroyed by glaciers that ultimately covered the whole Northern Hemisphere. Ancient Chinese records are surprisingly complete and describe the tree as ya-chio-tu, meaning a tree with leaves like a duck's foot.

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An Old Ginkgo

old ginkgo tree estimated 800 years old

coniferconifer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The name "maidenhair tree" comes from the ginkgo leaf's resemblance to maidenhair fern foliage.

Ginkgo biloba was first brought into the United States by William Hamilton for his garden in Philadelphia in 1784. It was a favorite tree of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright and made its way into city landscapes across North America. The tree had an ability to survive pests, drought, storms, ice, city soils, and was widely planted.

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Ginkgo Leaves

ginkgo biloba leaves

caoyu36/Getty Images

The Ginkgo leaf is fan-shaped and often compared to a "duck foot". It is about 3 inches across with a notch dividing into 2 lobes (thus biloba). Numerous veins radiate out of the base with no midrib. The leaf has a beautiful fall yellow color.

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Planting Range

The Planting Range of Ginkgo Biloba
USFS Illustration

Ginkgo biloba is not native to North America. Still, it transplants well and has a large planting range.

Ginkgo may grow extremely slow for several years after planting, but will then pick up and grow at a moderate rate, particularly if it receives an adequate supply of water and some fertilizer. But do not overwater or plant in a poorly-drained area.

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Ginkgo Fruit

ginkgo fruit on the tree

Yaorusheng/Getty Images

The ginkgo is dioecious. That simply means that there are separate male and female plants. Only the female plant produces fruit. The fruit stinks!

As you can imagine, the smell's description ranges from "rancid butter" to "vomit". This foul smell has limited ginkgo's popularity while also causing city governments to actually remove the tree and ban the female from being planted. Male ginkgoes do not produce ​fruit and are selected as the main cultivars used to transplant in urban communities.

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Male Cultivars

Ginkgo Trees

masahiro Makino/Getty Images

You need to plant only the male cultivars. There are excellent varieties available.

There are several cultivars:

  • Autumn Gold - Male, fruitless, bright gold fall color and rapid growth rate
  • Fairmont - Male, fruitless, upright, oval to pyramidal form
  • Fastigiata - Male, fruitless, upright growth
  • Laciniata - Leaf margins deeply divided
  • Lakeview - Male, fruitless, compact broad conical form
  • Mayfield - Male, upright fastigiate (columnar) growth
  • Pendula - Pendent branches
  • Princeton Sentry - Male, fruitless, fastigiate, narrow conical crown for restricted overhead spaces, popular, 65 feet tall, available in some nurseries
  • Santa Cruz - Umbrella-shaped
  • Variegata - Variegated leaves