Ginkgos enjoy the distinction of being the only surviving species of the Ginkgo family. These trees are incredibly robust, resisting damage from cold, wind, pests, and disease. On top of all that, they are gorgeous. These trees can live for thousands of years, reach impressive sizes, have unique fan-shaped leaves, and display breathtaking fall color.
“The Arboretum is a ginkgo, and a ginkgo it shall remain.”
– Joy Morton
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is the only remaining species in the genus Ginkgo, and the only genus in the family Ginkgoaceae (with evidence of six other genera existing in the past). Ginkgos were thought to be extinct in the wild until two small populations were found in eastern China.
Ginkgos are very long-lived trees and some specimens in China are more than 2,500 years old. Their resistance to pests, as well as heat, has made these trees popular for urban situations; they are one of the best-suited trees for city streets. Their fan-shaped leaves are unique among seed plants. In fall, the leaves turn bright yellow before dropping all at once to carpet the ground. This bright yellow makes a beautiful contrast with neighboring trees of any color, be it an evergreen or the vibrant red of a maple.
Joy Morton, founder of The Morton Arboretum, was particularly fond of the ginkgo tree for its enduring beauty and longevity. Many ginkgo trees have been planted on the Arboretum ground since its founding in 1922. A total of fifteen cultivars and 77 specimens have been assembled on the Arboretum grounds. Many different forms are represented in the cultivar selection including the weeping form (Ginkgo biloba ‘Pendula‘), upright form (Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry‘), and brighter golden fall colors of (Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold‘).