Stinky ginkgoes offend delicate noses

What rhymes with ginkgo? For people in many American cities, the word is STINKO.
The ginkgo tree has a long history, dating back to the Permian era which lasted from 290 to 248 million years ago. As you might guess from that statistic, the ginkgo is recognized for its remarkable hardiness, able to overcome extraordinary adversity. Legend has it that ginkgo trees survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
That hardiness is an asset prized both by private landowners and civic planners. What could be better than a row of trees with attractive foliage that are also exceptionally hardy?
Ah, well…
There is one major drawback, at least in the eyes (and noses) of many people. The ginkgo is one of those trees that is gender specific: they are either male or female. Mature female ginkgoes produce ovules which when fertilized by pollen from the male tree grow into bunches of seeds that look like fuzzy green cherries.
Now here’s the problem, at least from a human point of view. The fleshy coating around the seeds contains butyric acid, the same stuff that gives that distinctive smell to rancid butter. In addition to the rancid butter smell, many people complain that the odor reminds them of vomit, rotten eggs or even doggy-doo.
Not everybody finds the odor offensive. Depending on your olfactory sensibility, you might feel that the smell is really awful or not too bad or just one of those “nature smells.”
But the seasonal smell isn’t the only potential problem. The slimy seed pods can make sidewalks slippery and some municipalities are concerned about the possibility of lawsuits resulting from injuries caused by slipping and falling on pods dropped from city-owned ginkgoes.
As a result, many cities are deciding to plant only male ginkgo trees and/or removing and destroying existing female ginkgoes. Cities as widespread as Lexington, KY, Bloomington, MN and Easton, PA have taken action to limit or remove ginkgoes.
To me, it seems a great pity to destroy trees because some people find the odor offensive for a few weeks each year. At the same time I can appreciate the problem faced by a city that wants to avoid injury to citizens and the subsequent lawsuits.
Should you plant ginkgo trees on your property? That depends! If you don’t mind the odor or if the trees are a fair distance from your house, the smell issue (and probably the slippery sidewalk issue) shouldn’t be a major problem. Alternatively, you can plant only male ginkgo trees. Ginkgoes are very hardy, long-lived and attractive so there definitely are benefits.
But what if you really want trees and shrubs that are pleasantly fragrant? What could you look for? Here are some you can consider:
MOCK ORANGE PHILADELPHUS INNOCENCE X. LEMOINEI This is perhaps the most fragrant of the Mock Oranges. Cheryl and I love to inhale the sumptuously intoxicating orange sweetness given up by Mock Orange Philadelphus Innocence's, pure white blossoms. This variety grows to 5 – 8 feet at maturity in USDA zones 5 to 8. OLD FASHION LILAC, SYRINGA VULGARIS Old Fashion Lilac is perhaps the most popular of all lilacs due to its rich color ranging from purplish red to lilac and purple. Old Fashion Lilac has extremely fragrant with a broad, rounded habit. It is a moderate growing shrub with attractive dark green foliage. It is great for hedges, or screens, and can also be planted as a specimen plant, growing to maybe 20 feet in zones 3 to 7. CAROLINA JESSAMINE GELSEMIUM SEMPERVIRENS A fragrant, early-blooming perennial, the yellow Carolina Jessamine is an attractive semi-evergreen vine that tends to remain bushy and compact when grown in bright sun. When shaded, Jessamine Carolina can climb up and over adjacent shrubs and trees to heights of more than 20 feet. Carolina Jessamine will rapidly cover arbors, tree trunks, trellises, etc. in a season or two. Zones 8 – 10. And of course there’s honeysuckle and fragrant, low-growing plants such as lavender and rosemary that produce delightful aromas. So go for ginkoes if you can shrug off the stinko, or select more fragrant plants that bring a smile to your nose.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org
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On Wed, 4 Nov 2009 04:52:35 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@Greenwoodnursery.com"

I might cut down a stinky tree if there were not enough distance from the house. Why grow a stinky tree when there are so many that are not?
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wrote:

Because they are a beautiful and distinktive specimen tree.
With ginkgos there is no way to know if it's male or female until many years pass... could be tending it and watching it grow some 30 years before you know... by that time it's too valuable a tree to destroy, would make much more sense to move it. But they only produce seeds for a couple of weeks once a year... if it's away from your abode who cares if it smells bad for a short time. I have two that I planted as saplings almost eight years ago, they still have a long way to go before they mature enough to fruit. I would never think to cut them down.
Many reasons to grow ginkgo --> http://www.xs4all.nl/~kwanten /
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