Ginko Biloba, Not in My Garden but Should Be

The Ginkgo tree is one plant I don't have in my garden but have wanted for a long time. The reason is simple, it has great fall color. When I was in college there were two amazing ginkgo trees on the campus. Each fall (I won't tell you how many falls I spent there!) it would brighten into a beautiful golden color, far brighter than any other tree in the area. I would take the route by the trees to my classes just to catch a glimpse of these ancient wonders, for ancient they are. The ginkgo tree has been around a long time, scientists estimate that they are part of a family of plants that existed over 200 million years ago. According to Wikipedia they owe part of their survival to Chinese monks who cultivated them around their monasteries believing them to be sacred trees. It would not be hard to figure out why they treated them with great respect. Not only is the fall color fantastic but the spring and summer canopy is filled with some very interesting fan shaped leaves.

There is one thing you need to watch out for before planting these trees, they are dioecious. Dioecious plants are either male or female, not both. The same is true with hollies but there is a slightly more sinister aspect to this fact as it relates to ginkgos. The females are stinky! Sorry girls it's just a fact of ginkgo life. The females produce a fruit that when it falls will smell very much like "rancid butter or feces," at least according to Wikipedia. According to my wife if you happen to be in the Humanities Plaza at UT Knoxville when the female ginkgo trees are fruiting it smells like something died. Much like the UT Vols football season. Suffice it to say it doesn't smell good! In this case it's OK to be sexist and just plant a male.

Oh, I almost forgot! An extract made from the leaves of the ginkgo is reported to have memory enhancing properties. I'd better investigate that further...

Despite the minor odoriferous inconvenience the ginkgo is one that I wish I had in our garden. The one pictured in this post belongs to my parents. It's small now but will grow to between 60-115 feet tall over a time span that could be several hundred years! It's a long lived tree with an ancient history. Wouldn't it look great in my garden?

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