Few plants can claim to improve your memory, help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and live for a millenium, but as we discover, there is more to Ginkgo Biloba than meets the eye
Common name: Ginkgo, Maidenhair Tree
Botanical name: Ginkgo biloba
Requires: Full sun to part shade; water in summer
Suitable for: Most climates and soils with good drainage
Habit: Spreading tree, autumn colour
Propagation: Sapling, softwood cutting
Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living trees. Ginkgo fossils date back to the lower Jurassic age (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth): Charles Darwin even called it a “living fossil”
The only species of ginkgo in existence today is ‘Ginkgo biloba’. Botanically speaking, it’s so different from other modern trees that it stands alone in its own little category.
The long-lived tree can grow up to 25m tall, but is smaller in most garden situations. When the tree is young it has an upright, rather awkward, sparsely branched growth habit, but it matures to a beautiful spreading tree that gets even better with age.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of the ginkgo is its attractive maidenhair fern-like foliage, which turns vibrant yellow in autumn. It provides a cheery splash of sunshine yellow in the garden and makes a wonderful contrast to the rich palette of red, orange and burgundy autumn foliage.
How to grow:
Ginkgos are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. Female trees produce wrinkled, apricot-looking fruit, which produce a foul smell when they rot, so for this reason male ginkgos are often the plant of choice.
Ginkgo is a deciduous tree that provides shade in summer and lets light through in the winter. It tolerates most soil types and shows good resistance to pollution and pest attack.
When to plant:
You can get your hands on potted trees at any time of year or look out for bare-rooted trees that you can plant now.
The ginkgo tree has been revered in Eastern cultures for thousands of years as a medicinal plant. Modern science is now getting on the bandwagon too. Ginkgo leaf extracts — in the form of tablets, capsules or tea — are said to improve memory. Because of this, it may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia by creating a greater flow of oxygen to the brain.