Ajuntament de Barcelona

Ginkgo biloba

Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Arbre sagrat
    Spanish name: 
    Árbol de los escudos
    English name: 
    Maidenhair tree

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is endangered.

    Species characteristics
    Well-drained loess deciduous forests and valleys

    Deciduous tree up to 35 m tall, with several trunks, open branches and pyramid crown on the masculine specimens or horizontal on the feminine ones. The usually straight and upward branches are thick and rigid. The grey or dun cracked bark is very corky.

    The leaves, 5-15 cm long, are simple and dicotomically divided to the margin. They remember the leaves of some ferns, like the maidenhair ferns. They have a typical shape of flat fan, with low-cut terminal part (more on the masculine stipes than on the feminine ones), which divides them into two lobes. They are ligh green (yellow in autumn) and are alternate or grouped into groups of 3-5 leaves. The petiole is very long.

    The feminine flowers appear usually into pairs and the yellowish masculine ones into many cylindrical catkins. Both genders appear on different stipes.

    The fruits are round or elliptical drupes, 2-3 cm in diameter. Theiryellowish brown colour becomes when ripe. The pulp is edible and it has 1 or 2 seeds. When the drupes open, they smell rancid because of their butyric acid content.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Maidenhair Tree is harvested since ancient times in China and Japan, usually in temples and cemeteries.

    It's majestic appearance when older, the special form of the leaves and the golden yellow tone during Autumn make it very appreciated as a decoration tree in wide spaces where it can grow well. Several species are harvested.

    It's very resilient to diseases and pathogens.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Ginkgo biloba, consists of the genus name Ginkgo, adaptation of the Japanese ginkyō, alternative reading of the kanji (ideogram) used to represent ginnan, Japanese name of the tree, and the Latin term biloba, formed by the prefix bi-, "two", and the word lobus, “lobe”, in allusion to the leaf's two lobes.

    The original Chinese name was yín guǒ, "silver fruit", but when the tree was brought to other Asian countries, some of the other Chinese names (nowadays, more usual in Chinese) were adapted: bái guǒ, "white fruit", was adapted in Vietnamese as bạch quả (literally "white fruit") and yín xìng, "silver apricot", was adapted in Korean as eunhaeng and in Japanese as ginnan. The kanji (Chinese ideograms used in Japanese) often have several pronunciations in Japanese; that is the case of the ideograms used to write ginnan, which also can be read as ginkyō. When the German scientist Engelbert Kaempfer, first Western person to see the species in 1690, transcribed the pronunciation in his book Amoenitates Exoticae (1712), he did with the odd spelling Ginkgo, which seems a mistake by Ginkio or Ginkjo, which would be a more accurate Romanization.

    The maidenhair tree, a long-living and very strange in wild state tree, is considered a living fossil because it is the only living representative of an extinct gymnosperm order. The fossils which were related to the modern maidenhair tree date from the Permian period (270 millions of years) and spread and diversified across Laurasia (Eurasia and North America) during the Middle Jurassic (170 millions of years) and the Cretaceous (145 millions of years). From that moment on, they started being scarce and around the Paleocene (65 millions of years) the Ginkgo adiantoides was the only surviving species; at the end of the Pleistocene (12,000 BC), the ginkgos only survived in a small area of central China, where they evolved to the modern species.

    In China and Japan it is considered a holy tree.

    In Barcelona there are some ginkgo specimens in Ciutadella Park and the University gardens.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001