Weston Logo

Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo)

Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo)

When a fruiting female Ginkgo tree grows in your neighborhood, October is an “interesting” time to be outdoors. Ginkgo’s late-autumn leaf coloration is exceptional, as is its tendency to abruptly release all these leaves at once, typically in a single day. Just as this unique tree prepares to shed its fan-shaped, bright yellow foliage, its unusual fruit (borne only on female plants) drops to the ground. 

One of the world’s most ancient tree species, Ginkgo is considered to be a “living fossil”, prospering unchanged for thousands of years. Indigenous to Eastern Asia, it has proven resilient and tolerant of pollution and urban conditions, long-lived and thriving in almost any location. Ginkgo seedlings and large-growing cultivars form magnificent shade trees, typically reaching 75 ft. or more at maturity, widely used in gardens worldwide for hundreds of years. Ginkgo nuts and extracts of its leaves and other parts have been used for centuries in many cultures and are widely considered beneficial to human health.

But because female plants produce fruit, they are not well-suited for some locations. Each Ginkgo nut is enclosed by a fleshy, yellowish, ¾” diameter plum-like outer layer (called “sarcotesta”) which, when crushed, emits an extremely unpleasant (butyric acid) odor, comparable to vomit or dog excrement. This pulp is also reported to contain urushiol, the substance in poison ivy that irritates some people’s skin. As the fruit decomposes its odor can persist for many days, so even passing nearby can be an unpleasant experience. But when the outer layer is removed, the edible nut inside is considered a health-enhancing delicacy by many Asian cultures. 

Fortunately for those of us with olfactory and skin sensitivities, many Ginkgo trees planted in landscapes are male cultivars; they display all the positive attributes of their female siblings, without the stinky fruit. Among the dozens of cultivars, some of the most popular is ‘Autumn Gold’, ‘Princeton Sentry’ and ‘Saratoga’. And importantly for smaller gardens, a wide selection of slower-growing, even diminutive “dwarf” cultivars are now becoming available, including ‘Jade Butterflies’ (growing to about 12 ft. in 10 years), ‘Chi-Chi’ (about  5 ft.), and ‘Mariken’ which is promoted as reaching only about three feet.

In my gardens, I’ve planted several dwarf-type cultivars, and I’m pleased with how they look. Years ago on a trip to Japan, I tasted Ginkgo nuts, and so I’m also interested in trying a female tree—not readily available on the market. I’m confident I’ll find one from a specialty nursery and that my family and visitors will obligingly tolerate its few odiferous days, provided it’s planted in an appropriate, perhaps downwind, location!

Share Via:


Weston Nurseries is committed to being a center for horticultural knowledge. Enjoy!

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Search in posts
Search in pages

Shops Trees, Shrubs, & Perennials – in stores and online.


Online Shopping at Weston Nurseries

We are excited to offer two unique opportunities to shop online at Weston Nurseries.

Farm To Door™

WN Online Shopping icons_Ship to Door
Plants shipped directly to you!

Browse our online inventory for a huge selection of plants available to ship directly from the farm to your home! Anywhere in New England!*

Shop Our Garden Centers

WN Online Shopping icons-02
Great for large plants and larger orders!

Shop your local store for plants, garden supplies, soil, mulch and more. Then pick up your order at the garden center or arrange for local drop off!

If you are interested in ordering gift cards, please click here!
*Some restrictions may apply to certain states.


Memorial Day Weekend Flash Sale On Hydrangeas!

25% off all Hydrangeas this weekend only!

Saturday, May 25th – Monday, May 27th! 

Hydrangeas are a classic and beautiful sign of summer. Celebrate Memorial Day Weekend by sprucing up your yard with some new hydrangeas. Discount applies at all locations.

*Sale Fine Print:

For “Cash and Carry” transactions only. Offer good while supplies last.

No open orders or deliveries for future dates. All Flash Sale products must be taken the same day. Not valid on previous orders. No transfers allowed between stores on any sale items.

Skip to content