November 14, 2011

Female ginkgos: the fairer sex?

Reasons why male ginkgo trees are ( or should be) planted in Toronto landscapes

ginkgo biloba yellow fall colour at paul kane house paul jung toronto organic ecological gardening services
A gingko in its fall glory

I couldn't let fall pass us by without taking some pictures of one of my favourite trees, the ginkgo! Yes, I know the leaves literally all drop overnight on some trees but that bright clean lemon yellow against a clear sky is something special. Here's a younger female specimen located in the Paul Kane House park nearby (profiled in a previous post.) Usually, the sex of a tree isn't noteworthy or relevant but the ginkgo female will make herself known (explanation to follow.) Throughout the year, this small gal is rather plain but right now, she's positively glowing!

Yorkville Townhall Square with fall Ginkgo bilobas boxwood and yews by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
A herd of ginkgos!

Ginkgo biloba is considered the ultimate city street tree as it is reportedly immune to pollution, soil structure and pH, pests, etc. This feature certainly was considered when plants were chosen for the Yorkville Townhall Square. There are 46 (!) ginkgos among the yew hedges and boxwood balls in giant pots as described here. The site is between a public library (Yorkville branch) and a condo and sits on top of an underground garage. It's a nice quiet place to have lunch, except when the firetrucks are summoned. (The fire station is right beside the library!)

fall gingko biloba leaf and fruit allan gardens paul jung toronto organic ecological gardening services
The uniquely shaped leaf and smelly culprit
Ginkgos are ancient gymnosperms with seeds surrounded by a fleshy seed coat. The species is also unique for its bilobed leaves with dichotomous venation. The seed coat at maturity is soft and smells like rancid butter, dog excrement, or vomit; however, the actual seed is boiled and considered a delicacy by the Chinese and Japanese. I always put a few prepared ginkgo seeds in my pork bone and bean curd soup. (They have a mild nutty flavour after cooking.) To learn everything about ginkgos, visit The Ginkgo Pages

Mature ginkgo biloba in the fall at Allan Gardens by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Look out below and be careful where you step!

This is my first ginkgo that I identified about 8 years ago and I'm always fond of it. It is located in Toronto's Allan Gardens and is about 100 feet in height, I guess. I was off work looking after my second child, he must have been only about 6 months old or so. I would often take him in his stroller visiting the greenhouses, the gardens and mature trees. One day I must have passed by this tree and noticed the unmistakable smell of poo following me. Oh no! I checked the bottom of my shoes and the stroller's wheels but they seem to be clean. My son's diaper was dry too. But that smell was pervasive!

I eventually learned about the ginkgo in my plant i.d. classes and made the connection. I took both kids to the tree when it wasn't "fruiting" and described my earlier experience. They found it hilarious that I stepped in "it", "it" being the seed covering. I told them that this old ginkgo would likely remain long after I left this mortal coil as it was a survivor. (And it would continue dropping hundreds or thousands of sweet smelling fruits every fall!) They couldn't make out the word "ginkgo" so I said it rhymed with "stinko", which caused further merriment.

To this day, they call it the "stinko" tree.

Which reminds me, I need to wash my shoes...


  1. Anonymous15.11.11

    I like Ginkos to and they are splashy at this time of year, color galore.

  2. Hi Donna,

    yes, aren't they brilliant for a short time? I think they provide the best yellow in the fall. Thanks for dropping in!