GINKGO: Maidenhair Tree
A quick look up of Ginkgo on the internet reveals several websites about the age and ancient nature of Ginkgoes, and several more sites about its use in medicine. Indeed it has been around forever and has many uses, but it seems like such a great ornamental tree that those aspects of the Ginkgo should have a higher profile.
Gorgeous fan–shape leaves are hard to beat when in gold fall glory. Add that it can grow almost anywhere (probably one reason it survives since before ancient times) and you’ve got a winning plant. (Photo Credit OSU)
Ginkgoes make great street trees and look wonderful anchoring gardens. They’re often used in bonsai and dwarf Ginkgoes are nice choices for container plants.
Here are some of our favorite varieties.
Broad cone shape, nice selection for use as a street tree, grows 40’ x 30’
Fat fan leaves packed closely together on branches turn gold in fall. Grows about 4–6"/yr. Mature at 6–10’ x 3–5’
A clone taken from a 200 year old Ginkgo at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England.
A very small dwarf form of Ginkgo with full–size leaves on short stubby stems. Grows in a globe shape, about 2"/yr. 18" x 20" in 10 years. (Photo Credit Iseli Nursery)
Upright selection with somewhat more narrow shape then others. Grows 60’ x 20’
Leaves are long and slender. Same gold fall color. Grows 40’ x 30’.
The base of each leaf is fused together so that leaves form tubes. When it rains, the tubes collect water. We think it’s really neat! Grows 15–20’ in 30 years.
Genus: Ginkgo (g–INK–oe) from the Chinese yin–kuo meaning silver apricot.
Common: Maidenhair Tree
Characteristics: One single species, ginkgo biloba, exists. It has long been in cultivation and many varieties of Ginkgo biloba have been cultivated over time. Pretty green fan–shape leaves turn bright gold in autumn before falling. Trees drop all of the leaves over a short period of time, making them easy to clean up. Bark is gray with shallow fissures.
All Ginkgoes are dioecious, meaning that they are either male or female. Male flowers, or pollen cones, look like clusters of small catkins. Female flowers are twin ovules at the end of a stem & set in clusters. Although ripe fruit is prized food in Japan and China, most gardeners prefer not to grow female Ginkgo trees, as ripening fruit is messy and smells awful.
Size: 35’ to 50’ is common for many Ginkgoes. Many dwarf forms exist as well, growing as slowly as 2"/yr. in a tight ball shape.
Ginkgoes are often a bit angular and gawky in youth, but much like humans, fatten out later. Many are tall and slender for 15–20 years with open spaces between lateral branches, but over time they become rounded and full.
Culture: Ginkgoes are not fussy and grow in most circumstances. Give them sun for at least 6 hours a day and reasonably good soil drainage.
Problems: Most complaints about Ginkgoes are surrounding smelly fruit. This problem is easily avoided by planting male trees.
They are typically pest free.