Maidenhair tree leaves look rather ‘fishy’.

There are not many trees that are as reliable for strikingly bright and clear yellow autumn foliar color as the maidenhair tree, Gingko biloba, is, even in mild coastal climates. The distinctive leaves flare out like fish tails, each with a prominent cleft that divides it into two wide lobes. (The species name ‘biloba’ means ‘two lobed’.) Some cultivars lack foliar clefts, have narrower leaves, or even develop milder yellow color in autumn. Those developed for home gardens exhibit relatively symmetrical branch structure, and are exclusively male, so can not produce the stinky fruit that some older female trees drop. (Trees grown from seed can be either male or female. Female cultivars are grown for fruit production and bonsai.) Some ancient trees in Japan, Korea and China are more than a hundred feet tall. Fortunately, maidenhair tree grows slowly enough to stay proportionate to compact urban gardens for many decades.

Maidenhair trees develop the best yellow fall color.

11 thoughts on “Maidenhair Tree

    1. It is considered to be an advantage for some trees. I like colorful trees to hold their foliage longer. The best scenario is for them to hold all of their foliage for as long as they can, and then drop it instantly so it can be raked and disposed of all at once.

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    1. ‘Neat’, as in they defoliated neatly without much mess? I remember that the female trees in older neighborhoods can be very messy with they stinky fruit, but those that I encountered directly in younger neighborhoods were remarkably neet.

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      1. Well… The fruit can leave a stinky mess, but some Asians came and picked up the fruit before they became a problem. A friend of mine asked them what they did with the fruit and they said they make jelly.

        I think you can buy male trees to plant without having to worry about future fruit.

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      2. Except for very rare female cultivars that are grown for bonsai or fruit production, all modern cultivars are male. Most of the old seed grown street trees were naturally male also, but after the stinky and awkwardly structured female trees were removed from some neighborhoods in western San Jose, some of the old male trees decided that they wanted to become female. Apparently, they were more modern than they seemed to be. Unfortunately, the tall and elegantly structured male trees got disfigured as they made the transition to broader female trees, so they were both stinky and ugly. When I was in high school, I sometimes went with friends to collect fruit that fell from even older trees closer to downtown San Jose. I did not like the fruit to begin with, and I disliked it even more if it was collected from a grimy sidewalk on South Fourth Street! The nuts within were not so bad.

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