Ancient survivor from prehistoric times (200 million years ago), when it grew worldwide; now native only to two small areas in China. Related to conifers but differs in having broad (1- to 4-in.-wide), fan-shaped leaves rather than needlelike foliage. In shape and veining, leaves resemble leaflets of maidenhair fern, hence the tree's common name. Attractive in any season especially in fall, when the leath- ery light green leaves suddenly turn gold (they practically glow when backlit by the sun). Leaves hang on for a time, then drop quickly and cleanly to make a golden carpet where they fall.
Can grow to 7080 ft. tall, but most mature trees are 5060 ft. May be gawky in youth, but becomes graceful and well proportioned with agenarrow to spreading or even umbrella shaped. Typical width is no more than one-half to two-thirds height. Usually grows slowly, about 1 ft. a year, but under ideal conditions can grow up to 3 ft. a year. Seeds are considered a delicacy in China and Japan, and an extract made from ginkgo is said to improve brain function, especially memory, by increasing blood flow. Not favored by browsing deer.
Use as street tree or lawn tree. Plant only male trees (grafted or grown from cuttings of male plants); female trees produce messy, fleshy, ill-smelling fruit in quantity. Named selections listed below are male.
'Autumn Gold'. Upright to 50 ft., eventually rather broad and spreading to about 30 ft.
'Fairmount'. Fast-growing, pyra- midal form similar to 'Princeton Sentry'. To 60 ft. tall, 30 ft. wide.
'Golden Colonnade'. Strong, upright grower to 45 ft. high and 25 ft. wide. Uniform, narrowly oval habit makes it a good choice for street plantings.
'Jade Butterflies'. Vase-shaped, shrubby form growing only about 10 ft. tall in 10 years. Dark green leaves have a deep V-shape cut in the center of the leaf, giving the impression of a butterfly.
'Pendula' (Pendula Group). These slow-growing plants are usually grafted, with branches that grow horizontally, then weep, for an umbrella shape. Eventually reaches 12 ft. tall and wide.
'Princeton Sentry'. Erect to 60 ft. high; 25-ft. spread at base, tapering toward top.
'Saratoga'. Similar to 'Autumn Gold', with a distinct central leader. To 40ft. tall, 30 ft. wide.
'Shangri-La'. Pyramidal shape; to 45 ft. tall, 25 ft. wide.
'The President' ('Presidential Gold'). Full, dense growth even in youth; reaches 45 ft. high and 35 ft. Mature trees are broadly pyramidal.
'Windover Gold'. Resembles 'Shangri-La' in habit and size.
'Woodstock' ('Emperor'). Strong central leader gives this variety a uniform oval to broadly pyramidal crown. Grows 50 ft. tall and 35 ft. wide.
Plant in deep, loose, well-drained soil. Be sure nursery plants are not root bound. Young growth may be brittle, but wood becomes strong with age. In general, ginkgos are not bothered by insects or diseases, and they're very tolerant of air pollution, heat, and acid or alkaline conditions. Water young trees regularly until they reach about 15 ft. tall, then let rainfall take over. On young trees, cut back any awkward branches and vertical shoots growing parallel to central leader. Older trees need minimal pruning; just remove weak, broken, or dead branches.