Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is a living fossil that can be grown in your backyard. These unique trees date back to more than 270 million years ago, before dinosaurs existed. Since then, not much has changed in the morphology of these trees. The ginkgo lineage used to be a very diverse group and included many species, but now only one remains. This last remaining species is planted in many cities and towns throughout the world due to its beautiful leaves and hardy nature.
Ginkgoes can be used as a wonderful ornamental or shade tree which grows from 25 to 50 feet tall and has about a 30 foot spread. These trees can be grown in hardiness zones three through eight in the United States; so Iowa, being a zone five, has a very well suited environment for these trees to grow. Ginkgoes can grow in many types of soil as well, and can tolerate climates with moderate droughts as well as rather heavy rainfall. As a very pollution resistant and easy to grow tree, ginkgoes are a great low maintenance tree for your yard.
A rather unique feature of ginkgoes, is that they are dioecious, meaning that they have separate male and female individuals. Female trees produce smelly fruit-like seeds which, when dropped, produce a very rancid smell. Because of this odor, only male trees are grown in urban settings. At Reiman Gardens, there are multiple ginkgo trees dispersed around the Jones Rose Garden and Herb Garden. As such a unique species, these trees create interest with their fan-shaped leaves and vivid yellow colors in the fall. Next time you are visiting the Gardens, check out these living fossils for yourself, and you may even decide to add these unique trees to your own backyard!