Roger Foley

When we say these trees are among the prettiest of all time, we mean it.

There’s an obvious appreciation down South for things that can stand the test of time—a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, historic architecture, Mama’s smart quips. So it’s a wonder that one of our pretties autumn trees, which happens to be one of nature’s oldest, is allowed to go so underappreciated.  The Ginkgo tree, which dates back 200 million years, is the unsung hero of so many Southern neighborhoods. This tree, which humbly lines the sidewalks of cities and suburban communities alike, goes unnoticed every year until its big show during fall when the leaves turn a vibrant yellow. But not only does it bring shade and soothing natural hues to concrete streets, the tree has a remarkable history and equally impressive resume of strengths that have helped it become a prominent choice. Get to know this fall favorite:

1. It’s crazy old.

No, we’re not being rude. This tree has survived from prehistoric times, around 200 million years ago.  Although it previously grew wild world-wide, now, sadly, it’s only native to two small areas in China.

2. Much like a Southerner, it’s set in its ways.

Research shows the tree hasn’t changed much in those aforementioned 200 million years. It’s truly a living fossil. (Though it may be a little lonely. It does not have any obvious modern relatives.)

3. It’s street-smart.

These trees can take whatever you throw at it, and thrive. They’re planted so often in urban areas as they can withstand drought, pollution, salt, poor soil, and cramped spaces, no problem.

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4. It’s brains and beauty.

A real pageant winner this one. Elegant fan-shaped leaves adorn lean, sprawling branches that, overnight, turn a vibrant-like-the-sun yellow/gold in the fall. Eventually those leaves blanket sidewalks turning average neighborhoods into fairytale movie sets.

5. There is one downside…

The smell. Female trees produce quite smelly fruit after 15-20 years. Opt for male species, or just send a prayer of gratitude that it’s not a Bradford Pear.