What Is a Maidenhair Tree?

maidenhair-tree Credit: momotalo/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

The maidenhair tree, also called the ginkgo biloba, is an ancient tree that has flourished since the Mesozoic era. The ginkgo tree is native to China; modern examples were first discovered growing in temple gardens in that country. The oldest living ginkgo is 3,500 years old, according to Kew.

The tree is known for its fan-shaped leaves that resemble those of the maidenhair fern. The ginkgo grows to between 60 and 130 feet tall. The nuts produced by the tree are edible when roasted, but they are surrounded by pungent, sometimes-offputting flesh. When the ginkgo is planted as an ornamental, gardeners use only male trees to avoid the scent it emits.