The Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba) is the only surviving species of a very ancient plant lineage, whose natural distribution is now restricted to a few parts of China. We grow several throughout the Garden. The elegant fan-shaped leaves, dangling from an elongated thread, turn bright buttery yellow in autumn and are used to great effect in combination with the crimson foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ in the Autumn Garden.
The Maidenhair Tree is dioecious, meaning that individual trees produces only female or male flowers. The tree close to the west end of the Glasshouse Range is female and produces foul-smelling fruits each autumn, known as Japanese Apricots. They are eaten in Japan and China.
The stiff habit of the branches makes the Maidenhair an ideal and unusual candidate for training against a wall, a lovely example of which you can find on the north wall of the listed arts and craft building in the centre of the Garden, Cory Lodge. This treatment pays homage to two outstanding, espaliered Maidenhairs that were planted against the New Botany School (now the Department of Plant Sciences off Downing Street) when it opened in 1904. The Garden’s Arboriculture team prune and train the espaliers annually in late winter, tying in the leading shoots and shortening spurs to three or four buds. Today, these espaliered Maidenhairs are immense, having reached over 13 metres, and frame many of the windows. The logo of the Department of Plant Sciences is a Ginkgo leaf set within a double helix.