Ah, the ginkgo’s gold returns. In their honor, I’m reposting this from a few years’ back. Long may the ginkgo continue to confound our naso-horticultural aesthetics.

David George Haskell

The golden leaves of Ginkgo trees are just spectacular this week.

I have a special fondness for this species: its kin date back to the Permian (>250 million years ago), so the Paleozoic lives on right here on our campus lawns. The Ginkgo is also remarkably robust and is able to live in even the most polluted cities. Ginkgo trees were among the few living creatures to survive the horrors of the atomic bombs that were dropped onto Japan. Survivors, indeed.

In addition, the species refuses to conform to our narrow notions of botanical beauty. It is dioecious (female and males are separate individuals) and female trees are currently scattering their extremely pungent seeds all over tidy lawns (the smell is butyric acid — rancid butter). The philosophical underpinning of a lawn denies the realities of biology: death and sex are nowhere in evidence on a “nice” lawn. The Ginkgo violates these…

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2 thoughts on “Ginkgo

  1. Stephen Truslow

    There’s a long line of Ginkgos in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which are gorgeous in November and many more thriving in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, attesting to their hardiness.

  2. Grace R.

    When I was a little girl in Rome, GA, my mother would take me each week to the Carnegie Library downtown. The children’s section was on the ground floor and you entered through a small stone courtyard shaded by a ginko tree. My father, a geologist, told me that ginkos has been around when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I loved the idea that ginkos were so ancient, and it seemed fitting that a ginko was in the library courtyard, which seemed ancient to me although it was probably 50 or 60 years old. In Nashville, there are ginkos on the Vanderbilt campus and a row of them by the West End Methodist Church. They always remind me of that library courtyard and those wonderful trips to the library, where they would let me check out armloads of books.


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