Saturday, November 08, 2014

Harvest of Stink 2014

Many very mature gingko fruit pile up at the base of the tree. (11/3/13)
Few things would make me happier than to be able to write that this fall has been different. But, sadly, the song (or the stink) remains the same.

It has been four autumns (2008) since I last posted about the stink that occasionally emanates in fall from the narrow strip of lawn between our house and our neighbors. After having determined the source of the smell (and happily realizing it was neither our neighbor nor the dog poo I religiously pick up and deposit into the garbage can): a large ginkgo tree. The ginkgo borders both yards and is in the area under which we park our vehicles each day and when it "blooms" it grows fruit. And when the fruit falls to the ground it lays there until being either stepped or run over by our cars... and then they STINK. The fruit releases its odor when it is bruised or crushed (triggering the decay process).
Trust me when I tell you that despite
driving for days at high speeds
that rotten fruit will still be on
 the car hood! (11/8/14)

Upon first experiencing the phenomena of this "stink fruit," I was particularly surprised to learn that that trees can come in “genders,” being either male or female. Because it does bear fruit, it was not too much of a leap to surmise that our tree was female.

This conclusion was not confirmed by checking under its leaves. According to one website, “…female trees will bear yellowish plum-shaped fruit with a somewhat foul smelling meat (like rancid butter some say) whose outer skin is mildly toxic. Fallen fruits will usually burst open their fleshy coating, thus releasing the odor. In an outdoor setting, the smell is not too overpowering, but avoid planting near car ports or along roads as some people have reported paint damage from the fruits juices…” Stupendous!

The gingko in fall; note the fruits swept
 off the driveway to avoid bruising...
and smelling. (11/3/13)
Even after 10+ years living in our home, it does not surprise me is that the previous owners would plant such tree especially given its unique (albeit noxious) nature. When we first moved in, every room was a different shade of grey (including the exterior), and because they had been recreational bonsaists(?), shelves cobbled together with cinder blocks and boards were a central component of the garden. And guess what... the ginkgo tree is a favorite of Bonsai enthusiasts, but they usually know it as the Maidenhair Tree, as the small, bonsai trained leaves turn to a striking gold hue in the Fall.

FYI, even better squirrels and other (gulp)
rodents dig the nuts!
Because ginkgo's will take about 20 years of growth before they start to reproduce, we can deduce that the tree has been here for at least two decades, and being the first time in our four years here that the fruits have appeared, we had not previously noticed the scent. Where we go from here is unclear, and while the fruit can be harvested and the nuts removed from the pungent smelling meat of the fruit roasted for eating, given the height of the tree, and my cowardice in the face of scaling it, this is unlikely. In some ways it is neat to have such an usual tree (one landscaper we had come a few years ago to trim some other trees in our yard was very enthusiastic to find it in the city), as according to an online blog post I came across by a former "street tree program manager" (forester?), "Many cities no longer plant the female ginkgo."

So while we will not be collecting fruit, we will continue to harvest the stink and continue to make the best of it while attempting to come to terms with our smelly, unique ginkgo! On second thought, looking out the window this morning I realize that the majority of fruit HAVE NOT EVEN DROPPED YET (looks like a bottom to top up pattern of dropping)! Perhaps it's time to either put the ginkgo up for adoption or send it on to tree heaven.

Still MANY more left to fall! (11/8/14)

This really is kind of a bummer. (11/8/14)
"Fallen fruits usually burst open their fleshy coating releasing the odor"... uh-oh! (11/3/13)

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