Tree Spotlight: Ginkgo biloba

This month’s tree spotlight is the Ginkgo biloba. The ginkgo is native to China, but has been cultivated in the United States since the late 1700’s. The ginkgo genus dates back 270 million years ago and are almost identical to ginkgo trees today which can live as long as 3,000 years. It has long been used as an herbal supplement for improving blood flow and treating dementia; it is suggested if you are interested in ginkgo as a supplement, you see an herbal specialist.

Ginkgoes grow well in full sunlight along stream banks and woodland edges, and in open woods. It can reach a height of 40-70 feet with a 20-70 foot crown spread. It is a very tolerant tree growing well in acidic, alkaline, moist, rich, sandy well-drained, and heavy clay soils. However, it doesn’t grow well in hot dry climates. It also tolerates air pollution. Because of its tolerance of varied soils and pollution, the ginkgo is a recommended street tree.

The Big Tree Program is a national initiative that tracks and records the biggest trees of each species across the country. The Vermont big tree program is based on the national program; its scoring system comprises 3 measurements: height, crown width, and circumference at breast height. The current champion ginkgo is in Bennington, Vermont. The last time it was measured in 2003, its height was 68 feet, it had an average crown spread of 70 feet, and its circumference at breast height was 15 feet 6 inches, with a diameter of 4 feet 11 inches.


Common names: maidenhair tree, golden fossil tree, stinkbomb tree

Height:  40-70 Feet

Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Leaf: Alternately arranged on branches, fan-shaped, 2 to 3 inches long and wide, may have 2 to 3 lobes at broad edge.

Flowers: Ginkgoes are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female trees, male flowers are small green flowers on inch long catkins (cylindrical flower cluster), female “cones are 1 ½ to 2-inch-long stem bearing 1 to 2 fruit in mid-spring.

Fruit: The fruit is a 1 inch long seed with a fleshy covering which develops unpleasant odors when it falls to the ground

Twig: Light reddish-brown becoming gray, buds are conical to dome-shaped and reddish brown.  

Bark: Light grayish brown with irregular ridges, becoming deeply furrowed with age.



Virginia Tech

University of Maryland Medical Center

Arbor Day Foundation

Photo Credit:

Elise Schadler 

Warren Spinner

5404840 Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration,

5404846J an Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration,

0008004 Paul Wray, Iowa State University,