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The Ginkgo Tree: Chinese Culture In Your Own Backyard

In honor of Chinese New Year, let's highlight a favorite tree of ours: The Ginkgo. The Ginkgo is native to China and is known as a living fossil. It is unique in many ways including the fall color and foliage structure. The image below was taken at a Buddhist temple in China and the images of the vibrant gold carpet of leaves went viral. The temple became a top tourist destiation in China as people around the world came to enjoy the beauty of this 1400 year old tree. The gorgous color and the beautiful structure of the leaves is typical of the gingko wherever it is grown, so homeowners here in Chicagoland can enjoy the same beauty each fall.


The ginkgo tree is known as a living fossil. Over the last 50 million years the species has remained virtually unchanged. In fact, fossils show species of ginkgo from over 150 million years ago, from the Jurassic period. Imagine the delight of little boys upon  learning the new tree in their backyard existed in the time of dinosaurs!

As a landscape tree, the Ginkgo works tremendously well. It is extremely hardy and can take urban conditions well. However, we have to address a common misconception: The smell and messiness. Many of you may have had to walk around ginkgo fruit on the ground and smelled a rotten odor. Ginkgo trees are also unique in that they have both male and female varieties. By planting only male ginkgo trees, homeowners can avoid the fruit and the smell entirely.

Below are a few unique varieties of Ginkgo we will be carrying at our garden center this spring.

Autumn Gold Ginkgo - The Autumn Gold is prized for it's amazing fall color. It makes an ideal shade tree and reaches 30 feet wide by 50 feet tall at maturity. This is a male variety so there is no messy fruit. Learn more about this variety.

Mariken Ginkgo - The Mariken is a true dwarf tree and is shrubby in its habit. This miniature treasure and can be used in containers or as a bonsai. The cupped foliage turns yellow in the fall. It is very slow growing and makes a wonderful specimen plant. It will only grow to a couple feet wide and tall after a couple of decades. Great for small landscapes.  Learn more about the Mariken.

Princeton Sentry Ginkgo - The Princeton Sentry is a very narrow upright ginkgo. It makes a great street tree and is perfect for planting near a home or deck. It can reach 50-60 feet tall and is a slow growing tree. Learn more about the Princeton Sentry.

Want to learn more about shade trees? Click here to read more about shade trees in our blog post, "21 Fascinating Shade Trees for the Landscape".

Everyone at The Barn wishes you a healthy and prosperous year of the Monkey!






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