My small ginkgo forest in a pot and the big ginkgo in the background starting to put on the fall color show.
OTHER COMMON NAMES: MAIDENHAIR TREE
Ginkgo biloba (GINK-oh bye-LOBE-ah)
Ginkgoaceae (Ginkgo Family)
Deciduous shade tree
HEIGHT: 50 to 70 feet. Trees have been identified as growing to as much as 100 feet.
SPREAD: 30 feet
FINAL SPACING: 20 to 40 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Ginkgo is native to China but adapts to a wide range of soils as long as there is ample moisture and decent drainage. The only place in Texas I have seen the plant not grow well is in solid white rock or in soils that are too dry. Ginkgo tolerates a wide range of rough conditions such as downtown urban sites, smoky areas, air pollution and confined root system spaces. I have discovered working with my ginkgo at home that the tree responds dramatically to the organic program and grows as much as 24 inches a year in ideal conditions - in soil has lots of organic matter, lots of life, moisture and is fairly well drained. It is a classic example of trees responding to the organic program and the beneficial fungi that grows on the roots of healthy plants.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Ginkgo is an unusual shade tree in that has light colored and smooth bark, widely open growing, generally with a central leader. The flowers are not showy but the fall color on the fan-shaped leaves is spectacular for a very short period of time in the fall, being bright yellow.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are puny and waxy. The small disagreeable smelling, fleshy fruit forms on mature female trees only. Fruits are oval and 1 inch in diameter, acid but sweet. Seed are large, single, oval, cream colored, thin-shelled, sweet and edible. It is not a true fruit but a seed with a fleshy outer layer bearing a silvery bloom. Ginkgo seed are considered to have medicinal value to benefit the lungs, enrich the blood, stimulate menstrual flow, ease the excretion of urine and alleviate high blood pressure. After removing the fleshy layer, seeds are marketed internationally as an important export from China. They are sold as ginkgo nuts and roasted to be eaten. Many people do not like the flavor which is resinously sweetish and highly esteemed as food in China and Japan. The flesh of the seed is baked and eaten between meals to aid digestion.
BARK: Color is light tan to a medium brown and smooth when young but darkens and becomes roughened by fissures with age.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are medium green in the summer, fan-shaped and beautiful. Spectacular yellow fall color that doesn’t last very long - tends to fall all at one time. Green leaves are where the medicinal properties lie for aid in increasing the circulation to the brain. Ginkgo biloba capsules are the best source of the proper concentration of the medicinal herb.
CULTURE: Ginkgo grows well in most well-drained soils but does not like solid white rock, especially the limestone rock of north Texas. It has moderate water needs and fertilizer requirements. It responds beautifully to the organic program.
PROBLEMS: Ginkgo has few problems. I have never seen any insect or disease damage. Everything bad relates to dry or rocky soil or fertilizing with high-nitrogen, synthetic fertilizers. Another problem is the female trees have a fruit that is stinky. It is difficult to know for sure whether you have a female because the fruit normally does not start to form until the tree is about fourteen years old.
PROPAGATION: Ginkgo can be grown easily from seed or grafting of the male cultivars.
INSIGHT: Ginkgo has been called a “living fossil and also the “tree of life”. Buddhist monks believed the ginkgo could restore youth and vitality. I think they were right. It is one of the oldest trees on earth and can be found on every continent in the world. Ginkgo can ultimately reach a height of over 120 feet. It was first identified from fossil records in China and has a reputation of being an extremely slow grower. The secret is simply Nature’s secret – the organic program. The tree’s root system when it has the natural beneficial fungi is the key. Ginkgos are believed to be approximately 200 million years old. There is indication in some Chinese publications that ginkgos may be as old as 2000 years. “The King of Trees” is the imperial title given by the emperor of Quianlong in the 18th Century in Beijing. The name ginkgo is from the Chinese word meaning silver fruit. The species name biloba refers to the two-lobed leaves.