The Maidenhair Tree, more commonly known as the Ginkgo (the scientific name is Ginkgo biloba) is one of the most fascinating ornamental tree species you can plant in your landscape. Not only does this tree have an intriguing botanical history, it also makes for a beautiful and very hardy shade tree suitable for many parts of the U.S. First, let’s discuss this tree’s unique botanical features, and then we’ll move on to how you can plant and care for your Ginkgo tree.
The Ginkgo Biloba is a native of China, and has been particularly popular recently in the U.S. for its medicinal uses. The common name of “Maidenhair Tree” comes from the leaves’ resemblance to the Maidenhair Fern. You can find Ginkgo Biloba nowadays in almost every natural foods or vitamin store as a supplement to treat everything from Alzheimer’s disease to asthma.
Botanically, the Ginkgo is unique because it is the living link between ferns and conifers. Sakugoro Hirase discovered this fact in 1896. It is also a very ancient species, existing from the time of the dinosaurs. It’s hard to believe that the Ginkgo was only recently brought back from near extinction! The trees themselves can live to be hundreds of years old. Supposedly, the oldest Ginkgo is said to be about 3,500 years old and can be found in China.
The Ginkgo’s seed is protected by a fleshy seed coat, making it a gymnosperm, a term that means “naked seed.” Angiosperms are those flowering plants that have their seeds enclosed in a fruit. The Ginkgo is a dioecious tree. This means that separate trees produce the pollen and ovules for reproduction. Another amazing fact is that the cycads and the Ginkgo tree are the only living spermatophytes (seed producing plants) that have free swimming pollen (sperm).
Now that we’ve given you some historical and botanical background on this special tree species, let’s continue with how you can plant and care for a Ginkgo in your landscape.
One of the best things about the Ginkgo is it has very few pests and diseases. This fact probably contributed to its success as a species. So, as far as care and maintenance goes, you won’t really need to be on the lookout for problems related to pests or diseases. Additionally, the Ginkgo is a very strong tree and will seldom break during a storm event.
Now, when it comes to selecting a tree for your yard, be aware that a male tree is the way to go. The females produce a rather nasty-smelling fruit in the fall. Make sure you plant your tree in well-drained soil and give it plenty of water and fertilizer initially. Don’t be surprised if your tree grows very slowly at first, after a few years you should be noticing more advanced growth. As far as pruning goes, you may need to establish a central leader in the first few years, but in general that’s about all the pruning your tree will need. When your Ginkgo reaches maturity you can expect it to be around 75 to up to 100 feet tall with a spread of around 55 feet.
There have been volumes written about the Ginkgo, so make sure you take time to research more about this extraordinary tree. We recommend the following website to get you started: