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Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba


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© Jon Bradford

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Alternate name: Maidenhair-tree

Family: Ginkgoaceae, Ginkgo view all from this family

Description Very large deciduous tree. Crown angular. Branches long, erratic. Bark gray, furrowed. Leaves green and uniquely fan-shaped, usually 5–10 cm. (2-4 in.), up to 15 cm. (6 in.) long, turning brilliant gold in autumn. Veins enter the leaf blade at the base and fork repeatedly in two; this is known as dichotomous venation. Dioecious, some trees being female, others being male. Male plants produce small pollen cones. Female plants do not produce cones. Two ovules form at the end of a stalk, and develop into seeds after pollination. Seed 1.5–2 cm. long. Fleshy outer layer light yellow-brown, soft, and fruit-like. Smells like rancid butter or feces when fallen.

Dimensions Height: 15-21 m. (50-70 ft.)
Diameter: 0.6 m. (2 ft.).

Warning Fruits can be toxic if ingested in high quantities; can also cause severe skin irritation on contact. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Habitat Fine, silty soil and good drainage. Moist, humid areas. Disturbed sites; along stream banks, rocky slopes, and cliff edges.

Range Southeast, Mid-Atlantic.

Discussion Ginkgo or Maidenhair trees are living fossils, dating back 270 million years. Widely cultivated in China, Korea and Japan. Some naturalization has occurred, with Ginkgos seeding into natural forests. Extracts of Ginkgo leaves have been used pharmaceutically. .