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Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba L.

 

Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionGinkgophytaA group of gymnosperms, with Gingko biloba the only living member
ClassGinkgoopsidaA group of gymnosperms, with Gingko biloba the only living member
OrderGinkgoalesA group of gymnosperms, with Gingko biloba the only living member
FamilyGinkgoaceaeA group of gymnosperms, with Gingko biloba the only living member
GenusGinkgoProbably an English distortion of Middle Chinese characters meaning “silver apricot”
SpeciesbilobaFrom the Latin bis, “two,” and loba, “lobed,” for the leaf shape

About plant names...

Ginkgo biloba is native to China. It has become naturalized in a few places in eastern North America, but it borders on extinction everywhere. Natural trees live as long as 2,500 years. Cultivated varieties are often included in landscape plantings, and it is also cultivated for its alleged medicinal properties. Gingkos are a very very old species: fossilized leaves date back 270 million years, before even the first dinosaurs!

Plants: Trees are 40-80' (12-24 m), rarely as much as 128' (39 m), with an oval to cone-shaped crown.

Leaves: Leaves are more or less fan-shaped, sometimes resembling crescents, usually with one lobe, sometimes divided into two; leaf edges are softly scalloped. Leaves are medium green; in the fall, they turn bright yellow.

Flowers: These trees are dioecious: male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Male flowers are small greenish conelike structures about 1" (2.5 cm) × ¼" (6.3 mm). Female trees produce ovules—inconspicuous rounded green bumps about ⅛" (3.2 mm) in diameter—at the ends of stalks.

Fruits: Fruits are roughly oval-shaped, up to 1" (2.5 cm) long, hanging on long stems. They are produced in large quantities, and smell unpleasant (like “rancid butter”) as they rot, hence the name “stinkbomb tree.”

Medical: Ginkgo biloba is frequently touted as a dietary supplement with curative or preventative properties. It is best known for memory enhancement and slowing the progress of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, ginkgo has, at best, slight benefits in memory enhancement—many studies found no improvement at all. And in 2008, the GEM study, involving 3,000 elderly participants, found it to have no benefit whatsoever in arresting the progress of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Ginkgo has also been used for glaucoma, macular degeneration, tinnitus, and Raynaud’s phenomenon, and many other ailments. No large scale studies have been performed for the first three of these, but a well-designed study did find a benefit for Raynaud’s sufferers.

Online References:

Ginkgo biloba on Wikipedia

Ginkgo biloba at the Ohio State University PLANTFacts database

Ginkgo biloba at the University of Connecticut Plant Database

Ginkgo biloba on The Gymnosperm Database

Ginkgo biloba at the University of California Museum of Paleontology

Ginkgo biloba at the University of Maryland Medical Center

Ginkgo biloba at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation

References:

Sibley, David Allen, The Sibley Guide to Trees, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, p. 80

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

10/5/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, MD
≈ 6 × 4" (15 × 10 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

This mature ginkgo, planted in the heart of Boston, was thriving. I haven’t previously seen them in Massachusetts. · 7/1/2017 · Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA

Ginkgo biloba description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 1 Jul 2017.

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Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

10/5/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, MD
≈ 3½ × 4½" (9.2 × 11 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

5/27/2016 · Acton Arboretum, Acton, MA
≈ 21 × 14" (52 × 34 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

10/5/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, MD
≈ 7 × 11" (18 × 27 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

10/5/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, MD
≈ 7 × 4½" (17 × 11 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

7/27/2016 · State Arboretum of Virginia, Boyce, VA

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

Leaf undersides. · 7/1/2017 · Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

10/5/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, MD
≈ 6 × 9" (15 × 23 cm)

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree, Golden Fossil Tree, Stinkbomb Tree)

This may be a cultivar. · 9/10/2014 · Acton Arboretum, Acton, MA
≈ 10 × 7" (25 × 16 cm)

Range: Zones 3-9:

About this map...