An answer to gingkos’ reek

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To the editor,

It may not be eternal, but 200 million years is certainly impressive. Gingkos, which have been widely known from the fossil record, grew on all the continents but gradually declined until just a few trees were left in eastern and south-central China. Today, it is grown as a street tree because it can handle tough environments. 

When I mentioned to a friend who lived at 3701 Henry Hudson Parkway, which has four gingkos surrounding them as street trees, how excited I was to see a living gingko, he replied, “Oh, the stinky tree.” Gingko trees are either male or female, with the fruit forming on the female. That fruit has a smell that is, indeed, quite awful, due to the butyric acid component.

As I found out in November, I suddenly realized that “stinky” was not an exaggeration. The smell, though, probably functions to attract some animal that eats the pulp and deposits the seed in other locations where new trees would then grow. However, that mechanism developed a long, long time ago and leaves one wondering what animal found that noxious pulp attractive. 

Gingkos, both male and female, grow all over Riverdale, particularly along Riverdale Avenue from West 254th Street northward. Since the gender of a gingko is not known until the tree is approximately 30 years old and quite tall, the problem of odor is now being dealt with by only planting male trees.

To the editor,

It may not be eternal, but 200 million years is certainly impressive. Gingkos, which have been widely known from the fossil record, grew on all the continents but gradually declined until just a few trees were left in eastern and south-central China. Today, it is grown as a street tree because it can handle tough environments. 

When I mentioned to a friend who lived at 3701 Henry Hudson Parkway, which has four gingkos surrounding them as street trees, how excited I was to see a living gingko, he replied, “Oh, the stinky tree.” Gingko trees are either male or female, with the fruit forming on the female. That fruit has a smell that is, indeed, quite awful, due to the butyric acid component.

As I found out in November, I suddenly realized that “stinky” was not an exaggeration. The smell, though, probably functions to attract some animal that eats the pulp and deposits the seed in other locations where new trees would then grow. However, that mechanism developed a long, long time ago and leaves one wondering what animal found that noxious pulp attractive. 

Gingkos, both male and female, grow all over Riverdale, particularly along Riverdale Avenue from West 254th Street northward. Since the gender of a gingko is not known until the tree is approximately 30 years old and quite tall, the problem of odor is now being dealt with by only planting male trees.

Sura Jeselsohn

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