Ginkgo or maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) is a medium to large tree with an oval to cone-shaped crown that is often lopsided with long straight branches jutting out. Leaves are deciduous, fan-shaped, and broad with all veins radiating from the base. Leaves turn golden-yellow in fall. Twigs are stout, smooth, grayish-brown, and knobby. Bark is ash-gray, rough, and can have fissures.Ginkgo is dioecious (separate female and male trees). In the fall (August to November), female trees produce seeds enclosed in a hard shell covered by a thick fleshy coating. Fruits are edible, but malodorous. Male trees are often preferred for landscape purposes because they lack the offensive odor produced by the fleshy coating of the seed.
The name ginkgo comes from the Chinese word meaning “silver fruit” or “white nuts.” An alternate name is maidenhair tree because its leaves resemble maidenhair fern. Native to Eastern China, ginkgo was planted in North America by William Hamilton in 1754 near Philadelphia. This ornamental tree has a high tolerance to confined space and pollution and is common to city plantings. Fossil record indicates this tree has been on earth for roughly 200 million years. The Ginkgo is a valued town tree because it germinates readily, is pollution resistant and provides good shade. There is a weeping form, ‘Pendula’, first cultivated in 1855. The famous Old Ginkgo at Kew was planted in 1762; as it grew 56 feet in 128 years the tree is considered to be slow growing. Leaves have been used as medicines and the seeds as food in Japan (they have hazelnut-like taste). It genus name is taken from the Japanese words gin meaning silver and kyo meaning apricot; the specifric epithet means two-lobed in reference to the leaves. Its common name comes from its fan-shaped leaves which are reminiscent of the maiden hair fern, Adiantum.
Common name: Ginkgo, Maiden Hair Tree
Scientific Name (family and order): Ginkgo biloba L. (Gingkoaceae, Ginkgoales)
Species Origin: S.E. China; introduced to the West in 1784. Found in fossil record of 150 million years ago.
New Jersey Status: USDA Introduced
Habit: 130 feet tall; 70 feet wide; shape pyramidal in outline
Habitat: Zone 4 – 8.
Trunk/Stem: Bark pale brown, corky, vertically fissured when mature.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Leaves grow in clusters of 3 – 5 on spur or long shoots; fan-shaped leaves often deeply notched, 3 inch wide, long slender petioles of 1.5 to 3.5 inches long; dichotonously veined, each radiating from base of stalk Golden yellow in autumn. Leaves emerge as a spiral on a spur. Bright green on both sides
Flowers: Dioecious. Our specimen is female. Both male and female reproductive organs, on separate trees, are yellow. Male flowers are droopy yellow-green catkins which emerge from the leaf axil. Female flower also arise from the leaf axial but each one has a 4- 5 cm thickened stalk. The primitive “flower” is fertilized by a motile sperm. Unfortunately determining the sex of a given tree cannot be established confidently before tree maturity which is at the age of 20 – 30 years.
Fruits and seeds: Fruit initially green; as it matures it softens and turns to yellow brown. Mature fruits flesh emits a sour rancid odor.