Friday, January 25, 2008

Doncha love those ginkgos!

I love trees. Always have. I loved climbing trees as a kid. One of my favorite recurring dreams involves realizing my inate but previously-and-inexplicably-overlooked ability to fly -- always , at first, from limb to limb of a tall tree. (Analyse that). Even as an adult I've climbed a few trees, but it's been a long, long time. (At sixty, I hereby declare: I will climb again!) And as any regular readers of these posts know, I often post pictures or stories or poems (another) of the woods (another), trees, leaves, bark, nuts, woodland trails, and/or animals playing in trees.

One tree - an imported ornamental - I watch out for, especially in the fall, is the ancient relict from the Orient, the ginkgo.

I like to watch out for the ginkgo's yellow phase each fall. These trees have the purest yellow of any tree, surely, but it lasts a very brief time and the leaves seem to fall lemming-like from the limbs in one fell leap to oblivion. Well, actually they can be enjoyed as a beautifully pure yellow carpet for a number of days afterwards. There's a group of three lining the Fifth Avenue side of the old Forrest Hotel on Broad that pave the sidewalk and street in gold each fall.

And there is this one in the yard of the Floyd County Courthouse here in Rome, Georgia.

Ginkgos are living fossils. They are classified in their own division, class, order, family and genus. Ginkgo biloba is the only species extant. All it's near relatives died out before the end of the Pliocene.

I remembered these pics when I noticed that the Festival of The Trees is being hosted at Ginkgo Dreams. Maybe I'll submit this little post to that carnival. Do you have a tree post? (Redcedars make the best, hereabouts. Chuckle.) Why don't you share it with the Festival of The Trees?

I am no expert, but here is a little of my observation and understanding of ginkgoes. (My expert friend, Richard Ware, may read this and straighten me out where I err.) If you'll look closely at the photos you'll see how there are many ginkgo leaves along each branch rather than the more random branching of many yellow trees, like maples. There are many beautiful yellow maples in the fall, but the ginkgoes hold onto their leaves till they all decide to jump off in one day or so. The leaves are a very even yellow and are sort of rubbery and they are a very distinctive shape. Do a google search for "ginkgo leaf" and you'll see what they look like and that they are a design often used in jewelry and and other man-made items. A close look tells you immediately the origin of the species name "biloba" - most of the leaves have two lobes. The ginkgo is little unusual in that the species is dioecious, that is the individual trees are either male or female.

Here are some interesting pics of ginkgo trees and leaves.

The ginkgo is considered to be endangered because people cultivate it by cuttings rather than seed, and people like the non-smelly males. (The fruit produces the same acid found in parmesan cheese ... and in up-chuck. Yuck.)

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