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Ginkgo Trees are Living Fossils

Ginkgo trees are living fossils that are not related to any living plant. Fossil records of related species end after the Pliocene era everywhere except a small area of central China.

The ginkgo tree lives for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. There are specimens growing near monasteries in China that are believed to be 1,500 years old. Other specimens in China are known to be over 3,000 years old.


Four ginkgo biloba trees survived the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima and are alive in that city today.

They are one of the toughest, most resilient trees alive today and are widely planted in urban areas throughout North America. Few pests or diseases bother them and they can grow to over a hundred feet tall.

Their only downside is a foetid smell associated with their seed pods, which can smell like rancid butter or even feces.

The ginkgo tree is dioecious, which means it produces both male and female plants. Because the females produce the smelly seed pods, cuttings from male trees are grafted to seedlings and are planted more often than females. They still flower, but do not produce seeds.

The ginkgo tree turns bright yellow in autumn. They have an unusual quality in that their leaves turn yellow and fall off within a short 10 to 15 day period.

Ginkgo trees grow in full sun to part shade and will grow well in virtually any type of soil, as long as it is adequately drained. Their columnar shape and upright growth habit make them a natural as shade trees planted along city streets in USDA Zones 3 to 8.

They bloom in late June here in Zone 4 and their blooms last only a few days. The picture above was taken at midsummer, just when the flowers were starting to fade.

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