P91124Much of my work involves street trees. They need more of my kind of attention than most other trees. They must conform to more restrictive limitations. They endure more abuse. They are the most prominent trees on urban properties. Because some are assets of their respective municipalities, they are more stringently protected by local ordinances than other trees are.

I planted quite a few street trees too. While selecting trees for the medians of San Vicente Boulevard in Los Angeles, we considered the clearance of the lowest limbs above the highest truck traffic, the docility of roots under curbs and pavement, the potential for foliar debris, the resiliency to neglect, and the resistance to pathogens. Those were just some of the major concerns.

We sort of wanted them to look good too.

Ginkgoes, at least modern (fruitless) cultivars, work well as street trees. They are tall and slender, and can be pruned for clearance above streets and sidewalks. Their roots are reasonably complaisant, and take many years to displace concrete. ginkgoes defoliate neatly in autumn, with no debris for the rest of the year. They are resistant to pathogens and tolerant of neglect.

They also look great in their monochromatic but brilliant yellow fall color. (Try to not notice all those utility cables.)

This pair of ginkgoes is in front of an old home in town that was formerly the office of the Los Gatos Weekly Times, before it expanded into the larger Silicon Valley Community Newspapers group. Two decades and one year ago, this was where I dropped off the first of my weekly gardening columns, first as hard copy on paper, then on floppy discs. The trees were smaller then.

One day back in about 1999 or so, I stopped by on my way back from delivering rhododendrons and other horticultural commodities from the farm. I was driving the big delivery box truck. I realized how important adequate clearance is when the truck tore a significant limb from the tree on the left. The tree and I both can attest to the resiliency of the species to such abuse.P91124+


15 thoughts on “Street-Smart Gingko

    1. They are not my favorite, but they are so much better than my favorites. (Unless I trip on it, I don’t notice a busted sidewalk much when looking up at a gorgeous Norway maple!) In regions where they do well, they really should be more popular than they are as street trees. I think they are unpopular now because of their reputation for making stinky fruit. Modern cultivars are all fruitless males.


    1. When I did my internship in the summer of 1988, we cut down a few female ginkgo trees that were planted as street trees in San Jose decades earlier. The female trees had a rather distinctive but unappealing form, with multiple upcurving trunks branching about eight feet up on a single trunk, and a rounded top. They were widest on top. The males started out slender, and the bulked up as lower limbs curved upward, but stayed lower than the single main trunk. They were wider down low. It was odd that there were so many males, but only a few females. With date palms and Canary Island date palms (which are common in San Jose), almost all trees are shorter and fluffier females. They need only a few taller and less fluffy males to pollinate harems of females. Females eventually get just as tall as males, but stay fluffier, with orange clusters of dates. It sort of makes me think that horticulturists, a long time ago, tried to select male ginkgos. Years after female ginkgos were eliminated from a neighborhood, a few males somehow changed gender to become female. As they did that, they tried to bulk out high up, and became rather awkward.

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    1. They grow in San Diego, but are not big trees. Modern male cultivars grow more vigorously and with better and broader form. Will will likely add a few here, but only for their bright yellow color amongst the redwoods. We know that they will be scrawny.


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