Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

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Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree
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By David Gress

The Ginkgo is a majestic shade tree, with a broadly spreading canopy full of light-green leaves that turn gloriously golden in fall.  It is excellent for urban planting, as either a street tree or as a featured specimen in the landscape, due to its fine ability to adapt to all types of soil conditions, to drought, and to air pollution - and to the useful fact that it is insect and disease resistant!

Ginkgo is a “living fossil”; it was growing when dinosaurs roamed the earth more than 200 million years ago.  Fossils of Ginkgo have been found in rocks dating back to the Jurassic Period - and its form has remained essentially unchanged since then.  While it is prized for its beauty and heartiness, it stands out as a botanically unique tree which has no known living relatives.

Its full botanical name is Ginkgo biloba, but this native of China is usually known simply by its genus name, Ginkgo - which is derived from the Chinese word (pronounced yingua) meaning “silver fruit”, referring to its 1” diameter fruits which are yellow but reflect a silvery sheen.  The specific epithet, biloba, refers to its bilobed, fan-shaped leaves.  Its common name is Maidenhair Tree, because the leaves resemble those of Maidenhair Fern.  Because of the way Ginkgo is pollinated, it is technically classified as a conifer and is dioecious, meaning that there are male and female trees.  Most people plant grafted male trees, since the females drop messy, foul-smelling fruits!

For centuries in China and Japan, Ginkgo has been used for its medicinal qualities and for food.  The roasted nuts are considered a delicacy, but can be toxic in large quantities and if not prepared properly.  It is commonly used for Japanese bonsai.

The most popular Ginkgo variety grown in the Santa Barbara area is “Autumn Gold”.  Selected for its brilliant fall color, it grows quickly (at a rate of 1’ to 2’ per year) and up 40’ tall, with a spread of 25’.  The leaves are up to 3” across and resemble a hand-held fan.  The attractive light-beige bark becomes deeply furrowed on older trees.

Ginkgo does best in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained loamy soil.  Once established, it can survive on our natural average rainfall, but benefits from monthly deep watering in the dry season.  

Ginkgos are found as street trees on the first block of East Quinto Street, Torino Drive, and on La Cumbre Lane - and are planted as landscape trees in Alice Keck Memorial Gardens, East and West Alameda Park, Willow Glen Park and Lower Orpet Park.  Beautiful private garden Ginkgos can be seen on Grove Lane.


Tree-of-the-Month articles are sponsored by Santa Barbara Beautiful, whose many missions include the increase of public awareness and appreciation of Santa Barbara’s many outstanding trees and, in a long-time partnership with the City Parks & Recreation Department, the funding and planting of trees along the City’s streets – a project which has resulted in the planting, to date, of more than 12,000 street trees.

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richyrich Nov 25, 2017 09:59 AM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

Darn! I forgot to take my Ginkgo and now I can't remember where I put my Viagara!

Tree Man Dave Nov 24, 2017 09:08 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

Photos taken in Willowglen Park and from sidewalk on Grove Lane. Selected from many taken around town.

a-1513129054 Nov 13, 2017 07:08 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

Ah. The leaves are not bilobed, like "Biloba," but "bi-lobed." That hyphen explains a lot.

a-1513129054 Nov 13, 2017 07:04 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

Author of this post is very quiet. This yard was featured in SB News Press in January 2004. Stunningly, the tree is not visible! Plant trees! The water is worth it. They grow quickly. I would like to know when this photo was taken.

Flicka Nov 13, 2017 09:32 AM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

The Beautiful tree, if it's like the one in our neighborhood, is not as yellow as it will eventually get. The one I mentioned is still green right now. A-151, I don't blame you for being upset. If yours is still green then this was taken another time.

a-1513129054 Nov 12, 2017 09:50 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

I realize this photo may have been taken years ago. Bushy plant in front of it does not now produce red flowers. A relative may have given permission. Yet the condition of the palm to the left makes it look quite current. Familial loss adds to my reaction.

a-1513129054 Nov 12, 2017 09:40 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

I support Mr. Gress's work, generally. Still offended though. I look forward to speaking with him. https://www.smgrowers.com/aboutus/history.asp -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The photo is taken from in front of a bedroom window. Would you be shocked if pictures of your yard, taken from that orientation, showed up without your knowledge of the photo shoot? Honest question. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I've also had people enter my gated yard to steal fruit, so I'm a little sensitive. Hope you know who you are, persimmon thief beeyatch in a black SUV. I was bedridden sick and didn't have the energy to confront you. The tree was 40 years old and died last year. Hope those persimmons were good. I KNOW they were.

a-1513129054 Nov 12, 2017 09:16 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

I'm short of breath; I'm shocked. Hello David Gress, realtor. Did you take the second photo? My stunning tree, with the amazing pink magnolia blossoms seen behind the house across from this shot? I do not believe this is a Google shot. From where did you take this picture? By hand? By drone? As far as I can tell, the only way you could take this photo is from INSIDE MY GATED YARD. I recognize the house across from the tree, and the flowering tree I mentioned. This has to be mine. I'd love to know where you found it online or when you took it. Thanks very little. I hope you explain yourself in public. That said, I love my tree and am very proud of it. Gray water has helped a lot. My tree is currently still greener than seen in this shot. Might be the film. I look forward to your response.

a-1513129054 Nov 12, 2017 09:32 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

If you, or whomever took this, had asked, I would have been glad to allow the photo.

Flicka Nov 12, 2017 02:52 PM
Tree of the Month: Ginkgo Tree

Thanks for all this information. There is a huge one on Concha Loma Drive here in Carp, our neighborhood. We pass it whenever leaving our tract. When it turns yellow it's magnificent and the ground around it is covered in yellow leaves. Many years ago I asked to owner what it was and bought and planted one. Ours never turned yellow, we gave it years to try. At the time there was a "tree column" in the News-Press and I read that for some unexplained reason there are rare ones that never get yellow. We took it out and planted a tangerine tree.

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