Ginko – Playing The Odds With Gender

Q: I need some information about ginkgo trees. We were in Vicksburg, Mississippi in September and picked up some ginkgo fruit at the old courthouse. We cleaned and dried them and brought them back home. How should I plant them?

A: You know the saying “He bought a pig in a poke”? It means that someone received an object without being able to tell if it was valuable or not (because the pig was hidden from view in the sack). You have a pig/poke problem with the ginkgo seed. Didn’t you smell something stinky under the ginkgo tree in Vicksburg?

Ginkgo’s, you see, have female trees, which bear fruit, and male trees, which do not. It is universally acknowledged that ginkgo fruit smells bad enough to avoid planting female trees near your home. Ginkgo trees that are sold in nurseries have been grown from rooted clippings taken from male trees. Since they are male, they do not bear the malodorous fruit. Both, however, have glorious yellow leaves each fall.

Each of your seeds has a 50:50 chance of being female or male. You won’t know which sex you have for 15 – 25 years, when they reach fruiting age. There is no way to determine if the ginkgo ^pig^ in your ^poke^ is male or female. If you have plenty of room to plant the trees away from your house, go ahead and try to grow some! The ginkgo seeds are easy to sprout. Just plant them a few inches deep, six inches apart, in a short row in your garden. Cover the row with a layer of chicken wire to keep squirrels from digging there. Sprouting should occur next spring. Call me at my nursing home and let me know how it eventually turns out!

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