The ginkgo tree comes from the family Ginkgoaceae. They are hardy in USDA zones 5A through 8A. It is a deciduous conifer tree known to withstand most city conditions. Some can grow as tall as 80 feet. Ginkgo’s distinctive features include the shape of the leaves and sometimes odd growth. Interest in the ginkgo tree is also due to the fact that it is the oldest tree on earth. It has been around for 10 million years, starting in Japan. The ginkgo is commonly referred to as the maidenhair. There are several common cultivars.
Autumn Gold can grow 40 to 50 feet tall. It makes a good street tree or shade tree and has vivid autumn color. It prefers full sun with average- to medium-moist soil. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and acclimates well to most urban environments. The Autumn Gold is an all-male cultivar with a proportional, broadly spreading pattern. The leaves turn a golden yellow in autumn and continue in that color for several weeks. When the leaves finally drop, they drop quickly, forming a golden “carpet” around the tree.
Chi-Chi is a deciduous shrub growing 4 to 5 feet tall. It is used mostly as a hedge and blooms in April. It prefers full sun and medium-moist soil. It can handle a variety of situations, including both acidic and nonacidic soils, compact soils, pollution and heat. It is a hill-shaped, slow-growing shrub form, believed to have been around for millions of years.
Mariken is a smaller cultivar, growing 2 to 3 feet in height. It blooms a green flower in April. It requires full sun and moist, well-drained soil. The maidenhair has very distinguishing features, including fan-shaped leaves with nearly parallel veins. The female trees produce a fruit that surrounds the seeds at maturity. This fruit is known for its unpleasant odor when the fruit falls off the tree and breaks open on the ground.
Jade Butterflies is a tree that grows from 6 to 12 feet tall and is very similar in characteristics to the Mariken, but taller. The Jade Butterflies blooms in April and requires full sun and well-drained soil. It has the same leaf characteristics as the Mariken and is another fruit-producing variety with foul-smelling fruit that mature in the fall.
The Fastigiata is hardy in USDA zones 5A to 8A. It is a strong tree that can resist storm damage and makes a good street tree. This is a male cultivar that is narrow and good for confined overhead spaces. The crown spread is only 12 to 15 feet. It prefers moist, compact, slightly alkaline soil. It has beautiful yellow leaves in the fall that drop quickly.