The first question anyone asks you when you tell them you work for the Arbor Day Foundation is, “So what’s your favorite tree?” Hmm…my favorite tree? Just one?! Really?
To put this in perspective this is like asking a girl what her single favorite pair of shoes is at DSW or a guy to pick out his one and only most useful tool in ACE Hardware. (Yes I know, I just totally gender-stereotyped, but bear with me.) I mean, really, can you actually pick just one tree?! After months of getting this question, though, I decided to please the crowds and pick one.
So what’s my favorite tree you ask? Drum roll please……….Gingko Biloba!—or most commonly referred to as the “Gingko” or “Maidenhair” tree. Aside from the obvious traits that I love about all trees—they absorb carbon dioxide, prevent erosion, and provide me a shady place to run—the Gingko tree has some pretty unique characteristics.
1. This tree is old, old, old! There are fossils of Gingko leaves that date back to prehistoric times—over 270 million years ago. Dinosaurs probably found shady relief under these grand trees.
2. The leaf structure is unique among seed plants and actually fan-shaped. Not many others trees can claim this fact. During the fall these trees turn an amazing shade of yellow and drop all their leaves generally in 1-2 days, making it a perfect street tree because it’s easy for grounds crews to clean up.
3. The female trees produce a rancid smelling fruit containing a fleshy outer coating that when touched can cause a reaction similar to coming in contact with poison ivy. (Not the best trait, but still unique!)
4. Finally, the Gingko leaves and seeds have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years and are thought to improve blood circulation and enhance memory. The insides of the seeds are also considered a delicacy in Chinese and Japanese cooking!
So there you have it. That’s my favorite tree. Take a look at these photos and go outside and search for one in your community.
Long live the Gingko Biloba tree—and by the track record is has, I think it will have a pretty long life.
Special thanks to Marylise Doctrinal, Molly Des Jardin, and Derrick Sobodash for use of their pictures.