Ginkgo biloba

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah - May

Common name ginkgo, maidenhair tree
Scientific name Ginkgo biloba L.
Family  Ginkgoaceae

Genus: Ginkgo, from the Chinese yin-kuo, silver apricot.

Species: biloba, in reference to the two lobes on most leaves.

Distribution From China, however uncertainty surrounds the natural or long-cultivated status of the living plants in the Zhejiang province of eastern China. A second population in the mountains surrounding the Qinghai - Tibet Plateau in the south-west seems more likely to be natural.
Native habitat In valleys with deciduous forest, abundant water, good drainage and acidic soil in the pH range 5.0 to 5.5.
Description A slow-growing, long-lived, deciduous tree, 20-35 metres in height. The late autumn display of golden, butterfly-like leaves is spectacular.
Flowering/fruiting Flowers in spring and seeds fall in autumn.


Opposite the Visitor Centre entrance (a female tree), near the BBQ Lawn, on the Brunet Oak Lawn, in the Eurasian Woodland and below the Brunet Pavilion (a male tree and our oldest specimen). Cultivars can be found in the Conifer Cultivar beds.


Listed by the IUCN as Endangered due to its high risk of extinction in the wild. The Ginkgo is the national tree of China and the official tree of Tokyo, Japan. Held in high regard by some eastern religions it may have been in cultivation for more than 1500 years.

The fossil record, dating back to the Permian 270 million years ago, contains specimens with a remarkably close resemblance to the present day trees. Resistance to pollution, disease and most pests mark these trees out as robust plants. When damaged, they also have an ability to form aerial roots that grow vegetatively on contact with the soil and they can re-sprout from embedded buds near the base of the trunk.

For about the last two million years this species has been the only living member of the family. The nearest living plants are thought to be the cycads. Fertilisation of the ovule by motile sperm is a feature found in these two groups and also in the ferns, mosses and algae.

CAUTION: The seeds may cause dermatitis in some people.

The seeds, which form on the female trees, are eaten in China and Japan. Seeds and leaves are the subject of on-going research into memory aiding properties with a variety of health supplements available.

The rancid butter or vomit-like smell of falling fruit does not appeal in the West so the male trees are more often grown.

Available from cool-climate plant nurseries.