Ginkgo is a very unusual tree. It is considered a “living fossil” because the tree that is living today is almost exactly the same as it was 200 million years ago, during the Jurassic period. It is thought that the fruit was originally eaten by dinosaurs. The scientific name is Ginkgo biloba, and it has no living relatives. Originally, there were many other species of Ginkgo and Ginkgo relatives, but today they are all extinct except for Ginkgo biloba.
Ginkgo trees are extremely tough. They are drought, salt and pollution tolerant, which makes them a popular choice for urban street trees. They have a bright golden yellow fall color, and all the leaves on a tree tend to drop at almost the same time, sometimes in just one day, creating a beautiful golden carpet beneath the canopy. Ginkgos are dioecious, which means male and female cones are on separate trees (they are technically cones and not flowers). The female trees produce fruit (again, not technically fruit, because ginkgos are not angiosperms, but they look like fruit so that’s what we will call them) with a very strong unpleasant scent, but the seeds are edible and are popular in many Asian cultures. To avoid the strong-smelling fruit, trees planted in the landscape are usually male.