Maidenhair Trees

An ancient tree with a very modern appeal

The Ginkgo genus contains one sole surviving species: Ginkgo biloba, commonly called ginkgo or maidenhair tree. A unique species, G. biloba is one of the oldest living tree species and has no close living relatives. An exceptional tree, highly ornamental but tough and long-lived, G. biloba earned the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Maidenhair trees are large deciduous trees that can grow up to 8 feet wide and well over 100 feet tall. Young trees are slender with sparse, widely spaced branches; mature trees develop a pyramidal shape with denser but still somewhat erratic branching. The leathery, fan-shaped, two-lobed leaves are similar to the maidenhair fern (hence the common name). The leaves are an attractive shade of gray green to yellow green in summer but become absolutely showstopping when they turn a vibrant shade of saffron yellow in fall.

Maidenhair trees grow best in sunny locations with well-watered and -drained soil. They are fungus, disease, and insect resistant; deep rooted, they also resist wind damage. Maidenhair trees are intolerant of shade but do tolerate heat, drought, and pollution and adapt well to urban locations, which makes them excellent shade and street trees. They are low maintenance but benefit from an early spring trimming the first few years to encourage a denser habit. The trees can also be kept artificially small for bonsai.

Ginkgo biloba is widely cultivated but is threatened in the wild and is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN Red.