Ginkgo a healthy, beautiful tree

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2008

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
This fall has provided us with the most beautiful fall color in years. There was some doubt about this year’s fall display, but the leaf color on the maples, oaks and hickories have been outstanding.
The ginkgo trees located near the Salisbury Post building are culminating the season with a spectacular show of golden yellow foliage.
The tree, also known as Maidenhair tree, is actually a prehistoric tree with leaf fossils dating back more than 200 million years. Another interesting aspect of the tree is that the ginkgo is a gymnosperm related to true conifers like cypress, pines, firs and spruces.
A gymnosperm is a plant that reproduces by an exposed seed, or ovule, as opposed to an angiosperm, or flowering plant, whose seeds are enclosed by mature ovaries, or fruits.
The seeds of many gymnosperms are borne in cones and are not visible. These cones are not fruits. During pollination, the pollen grains sift among the cone scales and land directly on the seed.
Ginkgo trees are one of the healthiest, most pest-resistant trees on earth and can survive in the harshest of conditions. This uniqueness allows the plant the ability to tolerant a wide range of soil acidity levels, a perfect adaptation for Rowan County soils. It’s a cast iron plant because of its resistance to insects and diseases. There are no known pests that kill the tree.
Ginkgoes grow into a unique pyramidal form and have 45-degree branching habit with its limbs. Slow growing, botanists report that some trees can live as long as 1,000 years and grow to a height of 100 feet with a 30- to 40-foot spread. This is a tree your grandkids will appreciate.
Ginkgo should be grown in full sun in deep and well-drained soil for optimum growth. The tree has short branches with unique fan-shaped leaves with veins radiating out into the leaf blade. The surface feels almost rubbery. One of the interesting features of this species is it sheds its leaves almost overnight, avoiding continuous cleanup.
Ginkgoes also have another anatomical distinction of being dioecious. Some trees are female and others can be male. The fruits on female trees are considered inedible and produce a strong stinking odor. The odor is so strong many municipalities have removed fruit-bearing trees.
The fruit contains an inner seed, and there has been a report of a human poisoning from ingesting the seed. Check with your nurseryman and make sure you purchase male cultivars. There are numerous cultivars ranging from dwarf selections to weeping ginkgo forms available at local nurseries.