Large tree, reaching 70-115 feet tall. Angular crown and long, somewhat erratic branches, usually deep rooted and resistant to wind and snow damage. During autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow, then fall, sometimes within a short space of time. They are highly resistant to disease, have insect-resistant wood, and can form aerial roots and sprouts; all of these factors make ginkgos long-lived, with some specimens claimed to be more than 2,500 years old. Ginkgo is known as a “living fossil” because it is recognizably similar to fossils dating back 270 million years.
Relatively shade-intolerant that grows best in well-watered and well-drained soils. Preference for disturbed sites; found along stream banks, rocky slopes, and cliff edges. Capable of sprouting from embedded buds near the base of the trunk in response to disturbances, such as soil erosion. Old individuals are also capable of producing aerial roots on the undersides of large branches in response to disturbances such as crown damage. These strategies are evidently important in the persistence of ginkgo.
Leaves: fan-shaped with veins radiating out into leaf blade. Usually 2-4 in long. Sometimes called “maidenhair tree” because leaves resemble some of the pinnae of the maidenhair fern.
Ginkgos are dioecious, which means that an individual tree is either male or female. The female tree produces fruit containing butyric acid, which smells like rancid butter or vomit when fallen. For this reason, many people choose not to plant ginkgos as landscape trees, despite their autumn beauty and environmental tolerance. However, they adapt well to an urban environment, and tolerate pollution and confined soil spaces.
Native to China. Introduced early to human history. Widely cultivated and used in traditional medicine and food. Ginkgo is believed to enhance memory and concentration; however, studies differ about its efficacy.