Ginkgo, or Maidenhair Tree, a resinous tree native to eastern China. It is grown as an ornamental or street tree in North America, Europe, and Asia. The ginkgo is a slender, erect tree, often 120 feet (37 m) tall. The pale green, fan-shaped leaves, about three inches (8 cm) long, are notched on the outer edges. illustration titled Shapes of Leaves: Wedge.) They resemble slightly the leaves of the maidenhair fern—hence the name maidenhair tree. Male and female reproductive structures grow on separate trees. The male structures are conelike; the female structures are fleshy growths called ovules. While immature, the seeds are called ginkgo nuts; they are widely used in Asian cooking. When the seeds mature, their outer covering turns fleshy and yellow and develops an unpleasant odor.
The ginkgo may be started from seeds, cuttings, or grafts. It is little affected by diseases, insect pests, or pollution.
The ginkgo is the only living representative of the gymnosperm division Ginkgophyta. At one time (more than 160 million years ago) there were many species in this division and they were of worldwide distribution. Since the ginkgo tree is the only surviving member of this once numerous group, it is often referred to as a “living fossil.”
The ginkgo is Ginkgo biloba, the only genus and species of the family Ginkgoaceae.