The Ginkgo biloba


Culture plant

and temple tree

Gingko Früchte

In the 11th century, the Ginkgo Biloba returned to Japan via Korea as a cultivated plant and temple tree. From there, it travelled in turn in the pockets of Dutch merchants as seed robbery to Europe. A risky undertaking because at that time in Japan, the export of plant seeds was forbidden under the death penalty!
Its unique leaf shape and beautiful autumn color made it famous in poetry.

Bild: Pixabay

Medicinal plant

The Ginkgo has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. The precious Ginkgo leaves from wild collections mostly come from Japan, China and Korea.


In the East Asian area, the core of the fruit, the Gingko nut, is gladly eaten. Ginkgo nuts are rich in carbohydrates and proteins. In taste, they remind us of chestnuts. This flavor makes them equally suitable for savory dishes, as well as for dessert.

The tree of the millennium

Ginkgo Biloba

At the beginning of the twenty-first millennium, the “Tree of the Year Committee” in Germany declared Ginkgo Biloba a monument to environmental protection and peace. The plant was chosen as the tree of the millennium.

Its history

250 to 60 million years ago, in the so-called Mesozoic era, Ginkgos grew among giant ferns and dinosaurs. Vast forests of primordial Ginkgos are said to have existed. Remains of 20 different genera were found in Europe, America and Asia.
As the only one the Ginkgo Biloba survived the ice age, it was to be located then, however only in a small area in Asia – a “living fossil” baptized it, Charles Darwin. In Asia, the Ginkgo Biloba has long been revered as a temple tree because of its edible seed coat and cultivated as a medicinal plant.

In Europe, the first Ginkgo grew around 1730 in Holland, in the Orangerie in Utrecht. Because it proved resistant to air pollution and pests and coped well with the European climate, it soon became highly valued throughout Europe, especially in Germany, as an avenue and park tree.

Gingko Früchte

What a peculiar smell

The Ginkgo seed

The Ginkgo is wind-pollinated. It blooms in March. Only at the age of 20 to 35 the tree becomes sexually mature and begins to bear fruit. Until then, its sex can only be distinguished in an elaborate process. The Mirabelle plum-like seeds turn yellow during cold and fall to the ground

When ripe, the fleshy seed coat develops a strong odor that many find unpleasant. Responsible for this is the contained buttery and caproic acids.


In Europe, therefore, people usually plant male ginkgos, while in China and Japan – quite the opposite – mainly female trees are used as avenue and street trees. There, even fertilization is promoted by planting male and female trees next to each other.
Propagating ginkgos requires a lot of patience from the gardener. It can take more than two years for the seed to germinate, and the plant success rate is only about 30 percent

Gingko Früchte

A 1000 years old

Once a Ginkgo makes it, the tree can grow 30-40 meters tall and live 1000 years under favorable conditions.

The oldest ginkgo tree in Berlin is located in Gutspark Britz, planted around 1880 and 1890. Today it has a trunk circumference of more than 3 meters and is about 20 m high. It is thus the oldest and one of the enormous ginkgo trees in Berlin.

Gingko Früchte

Ginkgo in Japan                     Quelle:

Ginkgo and the tree discs

Ginkgos are generally hardy. However, we have arid summers nowadays, so even a ginkgo tree is happy to receive watering. Sometimes watering should be done even in winter, when it has not rained for many weeks.

The ground of these tree discs was cleaned, carefully loosened by hand, and weeded. Covered with sifted pine bark, moisture will be more retained in the soil.

Ginkgo trees feed on the soil through their roots, among other ways. They are heart-rooters, forming a long root deep down, especially when young. Later, they develop a more refined network of hairy roots near the soil surface. In addition, the tree forms a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that help feed it in its root system. For these reasons, it is important not to contaminate the soil or compact the ground (car/bicycle/cleaning machines).

The constant vibrations of road traffic alone inevitably cause compaction of the soil. Urine from animals and people – a strong acid when undiluted – corrodes the trunk over time, causing severe damage to the roots and trunk of the tree. For a chance to survive in the long term, the tree must be surrounded by clean, loosened, absorbent, and protected soil.