The ginkgo, or maidenhair tree, is an ancient oriental tree, of the single-species genus believed to be the oldest flowering plant in existence, though it is now apparently extinct in the wild. The ginkgo can grow from 40 to 80 feet tall. The ginkgo's foliage has the unusual habit of hugging spur branches instead of forming a broad crown. This results in branches that grow in every direction. The exotic, parallel-veined green leaves are fan-shaped and often deeply notched at the center tip. They turn butter-yellow in autumn. Male and female flowers are on separate trees. Seeds, produced in late summer and fall, are plum-shaped with a fleshy outer coat that smells like rancid butter when decomposing. The seeds are considered gourmet fare in the Orient, where they are also used in herbal tonics.
How to grow: This survivor is tough enough to tolerate differing pH levels, many soil types, moisture variations, and light exposures. The ginkgo needs little pruning and is virtually free of pests and diseases.
Uses: To avoid fetid fruit, plant only male trees as specimens or shade trees. Ginkgo is a good city street tree. In autumn, the yellow leaves tend to fall all at once and can look most decorative near a gray stone walk, until they go brown.
Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba