Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Bearer of Hope The Stinker of Stink

Nature is always beautiful, but sometimes, it plain stinks.

Today, I took a walk in a part of downtown I rarely walk in. It's not the most scenic area, but I got the surprise of the week.

Gingko trees, glowing in the midday sun.  I only wish my iPhone 4S camera could have done them proper justice.
I entertained my friend with a dissertation on ginkgo fruits, and how cities would try to plant male trees (ginkgo trees are either male or female) since they would not fruit.  Trust me, you do not want to smell a crushed ginkgo fruit. 

And then, I stepped on one.

Had I found a male, turned female?  And, better yet, how can such a beautiful tree have such a...well, smell?

Many cities wonder if the stink is worth the beauty.

So, I wanted to repeat a post from last November on

The Dilemma of the Ginkgo

Last year, some streets in downtown Binghamton, New York were rebuilt and re landscaped. This spring, I noticed that some of the young trees planted were ginkgos.

Ginkgoes are not extremely popular here in Binghamton.  I see more of the trees up in Ithaca, and I saw a good number in Iowa City when I used to visit my late aunt.  This was back in the 1980's and 1990's and I can remember them on the University of Iowa campus.  I've also seen them in New York City.

The ginkgo tree is also called the Maidenhair tree.  It is an almost indestructible tree.  In Japan they are known as the "bearer of hope" as a number of them survived the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. One of the surviving trees is some 200 years old.
The leaves turn a lovely yellow in the fall, too.  But before you rush out to buy this wonderful tree, there is something you should know.

The females produce a seed, surrounded by a pulp.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as "smell o blog" because you would be gagging just about now.  Some people say the smell resembles the smell of vomit.  Others say dog poo.  I tend towards the dog poo camp.

That patch of fallen leaves on the West Side of Binghamton, to be accurate, reeks.

This is what the offending (bare) tree looked like in early November, the offending fruits barely visible.

Yes, dear readers, this is the same Gingko Biloba that some claim enhances your memory, and may have other medicinal qualities.

Many cities were playing it safe by permitting only male trees.  But nature has a way, folks (as anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park knows), and it would seem that some of those male trees are now - well, they aren't males any more.

And these cities who planted these wonder trees now wonder what to do.

I wonder if the tree I photographed on the West Side of Binghamton started its life as a male.

Will the City of Binghamton have to face that dilemma in a few year when those small downtown trees mature and perhaps....well, stink?


  1. Beautiful, but I wouldn't dare to go near one after reading about the smell! :)


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