Ginkgo biloba or commonly known as Salisburia adiantifolia, Icho, Fossil Tree, Maidenhair Tree, Ginkgo, or Gingko. It is part of the Ginkgoaceae family of plantsI it is native to China. It is a large deciduous tree. Ginkgo biloba is the only member of the genus which goes back 270 million years according to fossils discovered.
The name is derived from Japanese Gin Kyo, meaning silver apricot. Ginkgo spelling was introduced by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716). He was a German naturalist who toured Russia, Persia, India, Japan, and Southeast Asia during 1683-93. Carl Linnaeus also published the species in 1771. Biloba is from Latin bis meaning two and loba means lobed which describes the leaves.
Ginkgo biloba is a large tree that can grow to 35m or 115ft. It usually has an angular crown and erratic branches. Branches grow with regularly spaced leaves. Ginkgo biloba leaves are fan-shaped. They have veins radiating or forking out. They are notched at the edge. The leaves could be as large as 12cm or almost 5in wide. The leaves turn bright yellow in autumn.
Ginkgo biloba is dioecious. Some trees are male and some female. The male trees produce small pollen cones. Female trees produce two ovules at the end of the stalk. Once pollinated produce seeds. The fruit is dull yellow. It has an unpleasant fragrance. Ginkgo biloba was thought to be extinct. But grows in two locations in China Zheijang and Tianmushan.
How to grow Ginkgo biloba:
Grow Ginkgo biloba in the sun. It tolerated most soil types. It likes moisture. But needs to be well-drained. Propagate Ginkgo biloba from seed or semi-hardwood cuttings. It is a very low maintenance tree. It is generally disease-free. It is also pest-free.
Ginkgo biloba in Cuisine:
Ginkgo biloba is used in local cooking especially in China. The nuts are used in congee. Congee is served for weddings or as part of a dish called Buddha’s delight. Japanese also used Ginkgo seeds in chawanmushi. However, if consumed in large quantities and over long periods the seeds could cause MPN.
Ginkgo biloba in Medicine:
Ginkgo biloba was used in traditional medicine in China going back to the 5th century. Today it is marketed in health food stores as being beneficial for cognitive functions and Alzheimer’s disease but studies are not conclusive. However, using Ginkgo biloba can also have interaction with other medications and cause side effects for those being treated for blood circulation.
Other names in Asia include:
銀果, means “Silver Fruit” it is Yínguǒ in Mandarin, and Ngan-gwo in Cantonese
白果 Bái guǒ, meaning “White fruit”
銀杏 Yínxìng, meaning “silver apricot
銀杏 used in Japan as イチョウ Ichou or ぎんなん Ginnan
은행 Eunhaeng, in Korean