The Ginkgo Tree is the National Tree of China, and the Official Tree of Tokyo. It has been around for centuries and many art pieces depict the unique leaf pattern throughout the Far East.
My interest in the Ginkgo came yesterday as an email from a friend, Joan. She was commenting on the lasagna garden article, when she asked, “Any suggestions on how to handle Ginkgo leaves? They are so leathery that they almost never dry out and it seems like they all drop in 2 days after a rain that makes them even wetter?”
The Ginkgo is a pyramidal tree with a pretty branching that makes it quite attractive. It can grow to 40- 70- feet tall. The 2 – 3” emerald leaves look like fans and are very distinctive. The Ginkgo prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It is hardy to Zone 3 – 9.
Joan went on to tell me that I should mention that if anyone is thinking of buying one from a reputable source to get a male tree. The Ginkgos are dioecious, which means that each tree is either male or female. It seems that the female tree produces a messy fruit that is extremely repugnant smelling like ‘dog dirt’ or an even more telling term, vomit.
Cities have had to spray the female trees to inhibit the setting of fruit to reduce this very undesirable feature of the Ginkgo.
The smell is not the only grievance some communities have with the Ginkgo tree. As Joan mentioned, the leathery leaves are heavy when wet. And since the trees drop all of their leaves in a matter of hours, this can set up a wet, soggy mess.
It seems the heavy duty vacuums that municipalities use to clean fall leaves from communities are not powerful enough to pick up the heavy leaves of the Ginkgo. So Ginkgo leaves are on the same list of items NOT to put to the curb as twigs, and branches.
The beauty of the Ginkgo Tree is undeniable. The fall color of gold shimmers and glows even on a cloudy day. (Batteries are included.) One cultivar “Autumn Gold” is very popular in the landscape. And Joan tells me that if the leaves are fairly dry, she shreds them along with other types of dry leaves, and puts them in the compost pile.
This ancient tree has a history of beauty and is also used in dietary supplements with the thought that it will enhance mental cognitive abilities.
My thanks to Joan Stoppelman for her comments and tips on the fall beauty, the Ginkgo Tree.