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Publication #ENH432

Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

Ginkgo is practically pest-free, resistant to storm damage, and casts light to moderate shade. Young trees are often very open but they fill in to form a denser canopy. It makes a durable street tree where there is enough overhead space to accommodate the large size. The shape is often irregular with a large branch or two seemingly forming its own tree on the trunk. But this does not detract from its usefulness as a city tree unless the tree will be growing in a restricted overhead space. If this is the case, select from the narrow upright cultivars such as `Princeton Sentry' and `Fairmont'. Ginkgo tolerates most soil, including compacted, and alkaline, and grows slowly to 75 feet tall or more. The tree is easily transplanted and has a vivid yellow fall color which is second to none in brilliance, even in the south. However, leaves fall quickly and the fall color show is short.

Figure 1. 

Full Form—Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba

Pronunciation: GINK-go bye-LOE-buh

Common name(s): Ginkgo, maidenhair tree

Family: Ginkgoaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 3A through 8A (Figure 2)

Origin: native to eastern China

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not assessed/incomplete assessment

Uses: sidewalk cutout (tree pit); street without sidewalk; specimen; urban tolerant; Bonsai; highway median; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 50 to 75 feet

Spread: 50 to 60 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: round, pyramidal

Crown density: open

Growth rate: slow

Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: lobed

Leaf shape: fan-shaped

Leaf venation: parallel, palmate

Leaf type and persistence: deciduous

Leaf blade length: 2 to 3 inches

Leaf color: bright green

Fall color: yellow

Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: green

Flower characteristics: not showy; male—emerges in clusters on 1” long catkins; female—1 ½"–2” long pedicel with 1–2 greenish ovules

Figure 4. 

Flower—Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo


Credit:

Gary Kling


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval, round

Fruit length: ¾ to 1 ½ inches

Fruit covering: fleshy, naked seed

Fruit color: tan to orange

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem; emits a pungent odor some find to be offensive

Fruiting: fall, and matures after a frost

Figure 5. 

Fruit—Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo


Credit:

Gary Kling


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; showy; typically one trunk; no thorns

Bark: gray brown with textured ridges, becoming deeply furrowed with age

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: brown, gray

Current year twig thickness: medium, thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 6. 

Bark—Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained to occasionally wet

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: yes

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: tolerant

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant

Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Female plants are wider-spreading than the males. Only male plants should be used as the female produces foul smelling fruit in late autumn. The only way to select a male plant is to purchase a named cultivar including 'Autumn Gold', 'Fastigiata', 'Princeton Sentry', and 'Lakeview' because there is no reliable way to select a male plant from a seedling until it fruits. It could take as long as 20 years or more for ginkgo to fruit.

Ginkgo may grow extremely slow for several years after planting, but will then pick up and grow at a moderate rate, particularly if it receives an adequate supply of water and some fertilizer. But do not overwater or plant in a poorly-drained area. Be sure to keep turf several feet away from the trunk to help trees become established. Very tolerant of urban soils and pollution, ginkgo could be used more in USDA hardiness zone 7 but is not recommended in central and southern Texas or Oklahoma due to summer heat. Adapted for use as a street tree, even in confined soil spaces. Some early pruning to form one central leader is essential.

There are several cultivars: 'Autumn Gold'—male, fruitless, bright gold fall color and rapid growth rate; 'Fairmont'—male, fruitless, upright, oval to pyramidal form; 'Fastigiata'—male, fruitless, upright growth; 'Laciniata'—leaf margins deeply divided; 'Lakeview'—male, fruitless, compact broad conical form; 'Mayfield'—male, upright fastigiate (columnar) growth; 'Pendula'—pendent branches; 'Princeton Sentry'—male, fruitless, fastigiate, narrow conical crown for restricted overhead spaces, popular, 65 feet tall, available in some nurseries; 'Santa Cruz'—umbrella-shaped, 'Variegata'—variegated leaves.

Propagation is by seed or grafting males.

Pests and Diseases

This tree is pest-free and considered resistant to gypsy moth.

Reference

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH432, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.