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Ginkgo biloba - L.                
                 
Common Name Maidenhair Tree
Family Ginkgoaceae
Synonyms Salisburia adiantifolia. Pterophyllus salisburiensis. Ginkgo macrophylla. Salisburia biloba
Known Hazards The seed contains a mildly acrimonious principle that is unstable when heated. It is therefore best to cook the seed before eating it to ensure any possible toxicity is destroyed. This acrimonious principle is probably 4'-methoxypyridoxine, which can destroy vitamin B6[237]. It is more toxic for children, but the raw nuts would have to be eaten often over a period of time for the negative effects to become apparent[237]. Avoid if known allergy to Ginkgo or cross-react species (cashew, poison ivy). Not recommended for children. Avoid if on blood thinning medication (e.g. warfarin). Discontinue prior to surgery. Avoid parenteral use as possible hypotension, shock, dizziness. Excessive seed ingestion can cause 'gin-man' food poisoning [301].
Habitats Found wild in only 2 localities at Guizhou and on the Anhui/Zhejiang border[200], where it grows on rich sandy soils[147].
Range E. Asia - N. China.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Summary       
Ginkgo is a unique species of tree with no close living relatives and is one of the best-known examples of a living fossil. They are very large deciduous trees, with an angular crown and long erratic branches. Leaves are fan-shaped, with two lobes, that turn yellow in autumn. Leaves are usually 5-10 cm (2-4”). Seeds are edible. Medicinal properties include: Antiasthmatic; Antibacterial; Antifungal; Astringent; Cancer; Digestive; Expectorant; Infertility; Ophthalmic; Sedative; Tonic; Vermifuge.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 9 m (29ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.


USDA hardiness zone : 3-8


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Ginkgo biloba Maidenhair Tree


Ginkgo biloba Maidenhair Tree
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ginkgo_biloba_SZ136.png
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Oil;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

Seed - raw (in small quantities), or cooked[237]. A soft and oily texture[229], the seed has a sweet flavour[2, 63] and tastes somewhat like a large pine nut[237]. The baked seed makes very pleasant eating, it has a taste rather like a cross between potatoes and sweet chestnuts[K]. The seed can be boiled and used in soups, porridges etc[183, 237]. It needs to be heated before being eaten in order to destroy a mildly acrimonious principle[57]. Another report says that the seed can be eaten raw[132] whilst another says that large quantities of the seed are toxic[218]. See the notes above on toxicity for more details[237]. The raw seed is said to have a fish-like flavour[218]. The seed is rich in niacin[160]. It is a good source of starch and protein, but is low in fats[237]. These fats are mostly unsaturated or monosaturated[237]. A more detailed nutritional analysis is available[218]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[2, 183].
Composition                                         
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Dry weight)
  • 403 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 10.4g; Fat: 3.3g; Carbohydrate: 83g; Fibre: 1.3g; Ash: 3.5g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 11mg; Phosphorus: 327mg; Iron: 2.6mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 15mg; Potassium: 1139mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 392mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.52mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.26mg; Niacin: 6.1mg; B6: 0mg; C: 54mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antianxiety;  Antiasthmatic;  Antibacterial;  Antifungal;  Astringent;  Cancer;  Digestive;  Expectorant;  Infertility;  Ophthalmic;  Sedative;  
Tonic;  Vermifuge.

Ginkgo has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine, where the seed is most commonly used. These uses are mentioned in more detail later. Recent research into the plant has discovered a range of medicinally active compounds in the leaves and this has excited a lot of interest in the health-promoting potential of the plant[237]. In particular, the leaves stimulate the blood circulation and have a tonic effect on the brain, reducing lethargy, improving memory and giving an improved sense of well-being[237]. They have also been shown to be effective in improving peripheral arterial circulation[218, 237] and in treating hearing disorders such as tinnitus where these result from poor circulation or damage by free radicals[237]. The leaves contain ginkgolides, these are compounds that are unknown in any other plant species[238]. Ginkgolides inhibit allergic responses and so are of use in treating disorders such as asthma[238]. Eye disorders and senility have also responded to treatment[237]. The leaves are best harvested in the late summer or early autumn just before they begin to change colour. They are dried for later use[237, 238]. The fruit is antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, cancer, digestive, expectorant, sedative, vermifuge[117, 147, 176, 178]. The fruit is macerated in vegetable oil for 100 days and then the pulp is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis etc[218]. (This report might be referring to the seed rather than the fleshy fruit[K]). The cooked seed is antitussive, astringent and sedative[218]. It is used in the treatment of asthma, coughs with thick phlegm and urinary incontinence[176, 238]. The raw seed is said to have anticancer activity and also to be antivinous[176, 218]. It should be used with caution, however, due to reports of toxicity[176, 218]. The cooked seeds stabilize spermatogenesis[176].
Other Uses
Oil;  Oil;  Soap;  Wood.

An oil from the seed is used as a fuel in lighting[2]. A soap substitute is produced by mixing the pulp of the seed (is the fruit meant here?) with oil or wine[178]. Wood - light, soft, it has insect repelling qualities[117].
Cultivation details                                         
Succeeds in most soil types so long as they are well-drained[117, 200, 202], though it prefers a rather dry loam in a position sheltered from strong winds[11]. Some of the best specimens in Britain are found growing on soils over chalk or limestone[185]. Plants flower and fruit more reliably after hot summers or when grown in a warm sunny position[202]. Established plants are drought resistant[117], they also tolerate atmospheric pollution[117, 200]. Plants can grow in poor hard-packed soil, making the male forms good candidates for street planting[229]. Trees are often used for street planting in towns, only the males are used because the fruit from female plants has a nauseous smell. The fruit contains butanoic acid, it has the aroma of rancid butter[200]. Ginkgo is a very ornamental plant[1, 117] and there are several named forms[11, 200]. This species is the only surviving member of a family that was believed to be extinct until fairly recent times. It has probably remained virtually unchanged for at least 150 million years and might have been growing when the dinosaurs were roaming the earth[237]. It is exceptional in having motile sperm[185] and fertilization may not take place until after the seed has fallen from the tree[81]. This genus belongs to a very ancient order and has affinities with tree ferns and cycads[185]. The ginkgo is usually slow growing, averaging less than 30cm per year with growth taking place from late May to the end of August[185]. Growth is also unpredictable, in some years trees may not put on any new growth whilst in others there may be 1 metre of growth[185]. This variability does not seem to be connected to water or nutrient availability. Trees are probably long-lived in Britain, one of the original plantings (in 1758) is still growing and healthy at Kew (1993). Plants are not troubled by insects or diseases[132, 200], have they evolved a resistance?[132]. Ginkgo is a popular food and medicinal crop in China, the plants are often cultivated for this purpose and are commonly grown in and around temples. Plants are either male or female, one male plant can pollinate up to 5 females. It takes up to 35 years from seed for plants to come into bearing[117]. Prior to maturity the sexes can often be distinguished because female plants tend to have almost horizontal branches and deeply incised leaves whilst males have branches at a sharper angle to the trunk and their leaves are not so deeply lobed[132]. Branches of male trees can be grafted onto female frees in order to fertilize them. When a branch from a female plant was grafted onto a male plant at Kew it fruited prolifically[11]. Female trees have often been seen in various gardens with good crops of fruit[K]. Seeds are marked by two or three longitudinal ridges, it is said that those with two ridges produce female plants whilst those with three ridges produce male plants[178]. Trees can be coppiced[200]. They can also be pruned into a fan-shape for growing on walls[202]. Another report says that the trees dislike pruning and will often die back as a result[238].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in a sheltered outdoor bed[78, 80]. The seed requires stratification according to one report[78] whilst another says that stratification is not required[80] and that the seed can be sown in spring but that it must not have been allowed to dry out[80]. Germination is usually good to fair. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for their first year. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the following spring[78, 80] and consider giving them some protection from winter cold for their first winter outdoors[K]. Softwood cuttings in a frame in spring[238]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. The cutting may not grow away in its first year but usually grows all right after that[113]. Cuttings of mature wood, December in a frame[200].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
11200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[63]Howes. F. N. Nuts.
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[80]McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
[81]Rushforth. K. Conifers.
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[117]Rosengarten. jnr. F. The Book of Edible Nuts.
A very readable and comprehensive guide. Well illustrated.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[147]? A Barefoot Doctors Manual.
A very readable herbal from China, combining some modern methods with traditional chinese methods.
[160]Natural Food Institute, Wonder Crops. 1987.
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
[176]Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas.
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.
[178]Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica.
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[185]Mitchell. A. F. Conifers in the British Isles.
A bit out of date (first published in 1972), but an excellent guide to how well the various species of conifers grow in Britain giving locations of trees.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[202]Davis. B. Climbers and Wall Shrubs.
Contains information on 2,000 species and cultivars, giving details of cultivation requirements. The text is terse but informative.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[237]Hobbs. C. Ginkgo. Elixir of Youth.
Looks in detail at the medicinal virtues and also mentions some of the plants other uses. The information on traditional Chinese use and modern herbal use of the plant is backed up by an extensive bibliography.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Cor Kwant Sat Oct 16 22:20:23 2004

Link: The Ginkgo Pages All aspects of the tree Ginkgo biloba. In 5 languages.

Elizabeth H.
Anne BITTERLIN Fri Nov 18 2005
... You can also gather seeds at the foot of a tree in a park... I bought 3 seeds that I paid a lot of money when I realized I could get plenty of them close to my house !!! (for FREE !)
Elizabeth H.
Brad Elmore Tue May 23 2006
According to my resources Ginkgo biloba 'Fastigiata' is a male tree. It better be because I graft them along with over 20 other cultivar and selected male seedlings.

Selected Ginkgo Forms & Cultivars Profiles on Ginkgo cultivars (The size of a mature 'Chase Manhattan' is really 20' to 25', but I'll try to straighten that out with Dr. Coder soon.)

Elizabeth H.
David Beaulieu Sat Oct 28 2006
I'm a fall foliage fanatic, and I've just taken some pictures of Ginkgo biloba trees displaying their fall foliage (see link). Enjoy!

Ginkgo Biloba Trees Introduction to Ginkgo biloba trees, with photos.

Elizabeth H.
Kevin Mon Feb 19 2007
Ginko is a very efficant herb at promoting mental clarity as well as mental stamina. Herbal infusions are a great method of consumption, and this herb blends well with Euthero (Siberian Ginsing), Ginger root, spearmint and Red clover.
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Mon Feb 26 2007
There are many suppliers of this plant in Britain. For details, visit The Plant Finder at http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSPlantFinder/plantfinder.asp. Please remember that plants are either male or female - if you want to obtain the seed then you will need to plant at least one male plant with up to 5 or 6 females nearby.
Elizabeth H.
Cynthia Smith Sun Mar 11 2007
I have loved Ginkgos since I was a child. I always knew they were special but, as a child, I had no idea why. For instance, the trunk is always warmer to the touch than the temperature. Even in the depths of winter most other trees feel cold to the touch, but not the Ginkgo.
Elizabeth H.
David Alicha Fri Jul 20 2007
Hello there, i am a student at RBG Kew and frequently use your website for information on plants. Thank you for the fantastic service. I failed to find information on Ginkgo biloba 'Horizontalis', would you help out in any way? Best regards
Elizabeth H.
Jason Hendry Fri Aug 17 2007
How do I 'sex' my tree - what do I look for when trying to work out if I have a male or female and what do I look for when buying a tree of the oppsoite sex?
Elizabeth H.
Sharon Fri Jun 6 2008

Jatropha Curcas Biodiesel Alternative fuel source for the fossil fuel by making use of the oil extracted from jatropha curcas seeds, which is then converted into biodiesel for industrial and automotive uses.

Elizabeth H.
Penny Thu Aug 21 2008
I'm Taken The Ginkgo Biloba And Ginger Root, As I Have Raynuds, my Doctor Said I Could Take The Gikgo To thin Out My blood. Can i take Ginger Root At The Same time. As i Have them both. thank You ,,
Elizabeth H.
thomas Wed Oct 15 2008

Physorg Mouse studies suggest daily dose of ginkgo may prevent brain cell damage after a stroke

Gertcha C.
Nov 17 2010 12:00AM
This tree is one most fantatic ones out there, I personally would like to more on the public paths, along with education about how incredibly beneficial parts of the tree can be for health, be it heart, blood pressure or memory problems. But can anyone please tell me can a Gingko biloba 'Fastigiata' also be used medicinally and be kept (crowned) at 20 foot?
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