A tree is often so much more than a tree.

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Let me tell you about a tree with a rich history – in my life too. When I was in third grade (1969) I excitedly told my father about Ginkgo biloba, a tree that was discovered in China that nobody knew existed. It was a beautiful tree with a unique leaf and was proof that there were still many things in this world to be discovered and understood. Well, my dad and I enjoyed being fellow plant geeks and before I knew it we had a Ginkgo planted in our back yard. Whenever I visit my family I stay in that childhood home with that 50 year old Ginkgo tree. Now that house is being sold, but I live with another plant geek. We have leaves from sentimental Gingko trees pressed into our sidewalk, including leaves from my beloved childhood tree. We have Gingkos in the ground and in containers. We have Gingko leaves pressed into books and in artwork decorating our walls, and I have sentimental Gingko jewelry.

There are several messages woven into this story:
– Adults have the power to encourage curiosity and a love of nature and gardening.
– A tree you plant can outlive you and bring memories to those you love and beauty, shade and habitat to people and creatures you will never see.
– Yes, this is the same Ginkgo biloba sold in health food stores. Doesn’t that make you wonder about conservation of native plants and habitats in our region? Could the cure for Alzheimer’s or cancer be in a plant that is found in only one small area?
– Gingkos are really cool trees. They are slow growers, but stately and often used as street trees. You will want a male plant or sterile cultivar to avoid messy, stinky fruit. And this is the time of year that this tree drops its leaves. Just because this tree is historic and dignified doesn’t mean it’s not playful. A few leaves start to drop and then – Whoosh! – in one day every leaf falls from this tree, leaving the most amazing carpet of golden leaves.

Fall color on Princeton Sentry Ginkgo trees at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

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