Gingko biloba tree not just for the memory
I receive an email newsletter from Howard Garrett, a nationally known organic gardening expert. His latest newsletter talked about the Ginkgo biloba tree he had planted in his yard years ago to celebrate the birth of his daughter.
Being a Master Naturalist, I’ve been reluctant to consider putting any plant in my yard that wasn’t a native to Texas. However, I may have to rethink this philosophy after reading about the Gingko tree. I could stretch the definition of “Texas native” to the Gingko tree based on the fact that at one time the Ginkgo tree grew wild all over the globe. It is the oldest living tree species, harking back to the early Jurassic period. It’s remained virtually unchanged for eighty million years.
Buddhist monks in China saved the Gingko species from extinction. About 2,000 years ago, they found a stand of Gingko biloba growing wild. From that last small patch of wild Gingko biloba trees came the modern tree we have today. Pretty much all these trees come from cuttings, as they are very hard to start from seed. Since that time, the Ginkgo has been revered for its healing properties. It’s fan-shaped leaves, reminiscent of ferns and cycads, harbor coveted healthgiving properties.
It has been found to increase blood circulation, which may help short-term memory loss, headaches and depression due to increased blood flow. This “living fossil” tree came to the U.S. in 1784 and quickly became a staple of urban landscapes, as it can live practically anywhere, easily handling pests, city pollution, excess salt, cramped root systems, drought, heavy rain and freezing temperatures. Gingko trees even survived the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
The caveat is they don’t do as well in arid areas or places where white rock, particularly limestone, is present. Its preference is well-drained soil with moderate watering. Gingko trees are deciduous, dropping their butter-colored fall leaves quickly, usually within fortyeight hours. In the summer, the leaves are a light green. It also produces very small, inconspicuous flowers.
The tree can grow up to one hundred feet, sometimes higher, with a spread of thirty feet. In Texas, the Ginkgo averages fifty to seventy feet. The average growth rate for the Gingko is thirteen to twenty-four inches a year.
What everyone will tell you is that you must plant only male Gingko trees. This is because the females produce these slimy, orangey-looking fruits, that when dropped on the ground and busted open emit a smell reminiscent of rancid butter or vomit. The smell is so bad that many cities have physically removed the female trees and banned new ones from being planted.
Unfortunately, as it takes fourteen years for a female to begin producing fruit, you many not find out what you’ve got until it’s too late. Some of the available varieties include “Autumn Gold”, “Princeton” and “Fairmont”. Plant in an area where you know you have deep soil, and keep it watered until it’s established. Once this occurs, the tree becomes practically maintenance-free.
If you’re curious about where the name “Ginkgo biloba” came from; the word “ginkgo” comes from two Chinese words that mean “silver apricot.” “Biloba” refers to the two-lobed leaves.
NATURE FEST–Clear your calendar for Saturday, April 9. The second annual Milam County Nature Festival is scheduled for that day. It will be held once again at the Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s theme is the Horned Lizard, which we all affectionately call the “Horny Toad”. We will have great youth activities, and the first 800 kids to attend will get a cool backpack full of neat things. email@example.com El Camino Real Master Naturalists: txmn.org/elcamino/
Little River Basin Master Gardeners: txmg.org/milam/