Gingko biloba, bearer of hope

If trees have personalities, then Ginkgo biloba is a wise old warrior, survivor of eons of change and catastrophe. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, six Gingko trees were among the few living things to survive within a short radius of the blast site—and they’re still standing today. Thus, the Japanese regard the gingko as “the bearer of hope.” It is also known as “the survivor” and “the living fossil.”

Six gingko trees were among the only living things to survive within a short radius of the Hiroshima bombing.

Ginkgos grow slowly and can live to be 3,000 years old, opting to put energy toward defense rather than rapid growth. As a medicinal, they have been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years to improve blood flow, memory and eye health, among other benefits.

On our side of the Pacific, ginkgo trees predate the formation of Mount Hood or the Columbia Gorge. There’s said to be 15 million-year-old Ginkgo fossils in the basalt bluffs above the Columbia, proof that Gingko is a truly original native of Oregon. While most plant species have an evolutionary run of a few million years, gingkos have been around with minimal changes for 56 million years, linking the trees that stood among the dinosaurs to the ones lining our streets today.

Needless to say, the stress of an urban environment doesn’t really phase a gingko, so it makes a fantastic street tree that will far outlive the trees around it. With fan-shaped leaves glow gold in the fall, gingkos weather big storms, tolerate pollution, aren’t picky about soil and are virtually pest free. If that isn’t enough, they lose their leaves over a very short period of time, making raking easy.

We love Autumn Gold ginkgo. This all-male cultivar doesn’t produce the smelly fruit that some people associate with gingkos. They are suitable for a 6-8 foot planting strip without power lines.

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