A living Fossil
Common Name: maidenhair tree
Botanical Name: Ginkgo biloba
Form: upright tree
Plant Type: deciduous tree
Mature Size: 60’ to 115’ x 35’
Hardiness Zone: 4
Foliage: up to 3” long, fan shaped with acute notch in center, veins diverge from base, dull green leathery leaves turn bright yellow in autumn
Flowers: March, separate male and female trees (dioecious), males are catkin-like, female flowers tiny, yellow and are borne on spurs
Fruit: yellow 2 to 3” plum-like fruit are borne on female trees in fall, centre nut is edible, rotting fruit is smelly and slimy
Bark: greyish brown that become slightly fissured with age
Exposure: full sun
Soil: tolerant to most soils but prefer moist well-drained loam
Uses: specimen, shade tree, street tree, accent tree, fall colour, Asian gardens
Propagation: softwood cuttings in early summer
Pruning: in winter during dormancy
Problems: no problems, tolerant of pollution
The Ginkgo biloba is also referred to as a living fossil due to its existence on earth since the dinosaur age. In ancient China and Japan, they were planted in temples and are still revered today. Part of their success is their extensive root system that delves deeply into the ground providing support and stability despite the conditions. These long-lived trees have excellent resistance to diseases, insects and even pollution. Some specimens in their native China, are more than 2,500 years old.
The gingko is a very unique plant; it’s the only member of the Ginkgoaceae family. This primitive tree, like most gymnosperms, doesn’t have flashy flowers, but they do have male and female trees. The female trees produce fruit that although are edible, they aren’t tasty. They also have a foul smell and are quite slimy. It’s recommended to grow only male trees to avoid the subsequent mess and smell of the fruit
In their youth, maidenhair trees have a slight silhouette and are sparsely branched. As they age, their canopy becomes broadly pyramidal and slightly irregular. Their fan-shaped foliage has a notch in the centre and is very distinctive and appealing, especially when it turns a brilliant sunflower-yellow in the fall. The colour last well into the autumn but drop rapidly.
Maidenhair trees grow best in full sun in well-drained moist soils, but are soil tolerant. Locate them where they can show off their elegant form, beautiful foliage and autumn colour.
Ginkgoes are not just beautiful trees, they are used for their memory enhancement properties and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
‘Autumn Gold’: 40’-50’ x 25’-30’, an all male cultivar with a symmetrical broadly spreading canopy, Gold fall colour lasts for weeks. Zones 3 to 8.
‘Fastigiata’: 30’-50’ x 10’-15’, narrow canopy and shorter height is perfect for screens and urban settings. Good fall colour. Zones 3 to 8.