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Ginkgo Autumn Gold: Best Kept Secrets Revealed!

Ginkgo 'Autumn Gold' in Fuzhou People's Park, Ishibashi, Japan

Have you ever come across a beautiful tree in your travels and snapped a photo of it? I did this years ago with the beautiful Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ and I’ve been eyeing it up ever since.

What struck me about this tree wasn’t exactly the tree… it was the ground beneath the tree. I have never seen a tree that where all leaves drop at the same time, leaving a beautiful golden pool underneath. I really just wanted to dash over there and jump in the pile of leaves… it was that welcoming!

After doing some research, I learned that Ginkgo biloba is also known as Maidenhair tree. It’s a slow-growing, long-living upright tree hailed as “…one of the most distinct and beautiful of all deciduous trees.” I’m excited to tell you all about this gorgeous, unique tree.

Ginkgo Autumn Gold Maidenhair Tree
My Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ (left) in 2017. I’m patiently awaiting the beautiful fall foliage and dramatic ‘leaf drop’ when it matures.

And yes… I did cave and buy one of course 🙂

Pictured above: Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ in Fuzhou People’s Park, Ishibashi, Japan

‘Autumn Gold’ Key Features

  • Ginkgo Chinese meaning ”white nuts” or ”silvery fruit’, biloba meaning two-lobed
  • Hardy in zones 4-9
  • 40-50 feet high x 25-30 feet wide
  • Full-Part Sun (full sun recommended in the North, partial sun in the South)
  • Upright growth habit at first, transitioning to a broader silhouette with age
  • Painfully slow growing for the first several years, then takes off.
  • You can even purchase the Ginkgo Autumn Gold online (yay!).
    And, here’s some helpful info about shopping online for trees and plants.

Want to learn more about the Ginkgo biloba tree?

Keep reading for some awesome facts, stats and planting tips for this beautiful tree.

Ginkgo Autumn Gold glowing yellow
Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ (Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’)

Pros of Ginkgo Autumn Gold

  • Beautiful medium-sized tree, known for its exceptional golden color in the fall.
  • Unique and delicate leaf shape; it’s almost a fan or lobe shape.
  • All the leaves drop at once, leaving a beautiful golden carpet underfoot.
  • Does not drop messy, stinky fruit (like female gingkoes).
  • Very drought-tolerant once established.
  • It’s a living fossil, said to have existed even millions of years ago.
  • Known for it’s medicinal benefits (like improving memory).
  • Tolerant to urban pollution and road salt.
  • Rarely bothered by disease.
  • Great for casting shade.
  • Resistant to most storm damage.
  • Unusual form adds to winter interest.

Cons of Ginkgo Autumn Gold

  • While it’s generally disease-free, it’s susceptible oleander leaf scorch disease; can hinder growth or even lead to death.
  • Non-native to the US. There are other native trees you can plant that are very beneficial to native wildlife, like the Red maple (Acer rubrum).
    Here are several gorgeous red maples you’ll love.
  • Produces pollen, can be highly allergenic for some (7/10 rating on the OPALS allergy scale).
  • The falling leaves will have to be raked (annual maintenance).
  • Very slow growing for the first several years.

Root System of Ginkgo Autumn Gold

A commonly asked question about the Ginkgo Autumn Gold is how invasive is its root system. This question is always relative to your situation and what you mean by invasive so there’s no definitive way to answer. This tree can grow to 50′ tall, so it will obviously need a root system that can support its size.

Ginkgo Autumn Gold’s roots tend to grow downward more than outward. Ginkgo’s deep taproot keeps the tree strong and resistant to most wind and storm damage.

After a few years of growth, the tree will begin forming outward-growing roots. In some cases (usually in search of a water source) and cause some issues (like in this video), these roots can become problematic. But in general, most experts confirm that this tree has a well-behaved root system, which is why it’s commonly planted along streets.

Surface roots are typically not a problem with this tree.

How Far to Plant a Ginkgo from Your Home?

So, we’ve learned that the ginkgo’s root system is fairly well-behaved. But you may still be wondering what the safe planting distance from your home is.

As a rule of thumb, plant the Ginkgo Autumn Gold tree at least 20 feet away from any structures, utility lines or septic systems.

If you have the space, plant as far away as possible to avoid expensive damage.

Or, choose a smaller tree that will have a less-extensive root system. Here are some beautiful & small ornamental trees I love.

Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ Grows Very Slowly at First

Ginkgo Autumn Gold Forest
Ginkgo Grove at the State Arboretum of Virginia

A downside to the Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ is that it will grow extremely slow for several years after planting.

I’ve read that this tree will only grow around 1 foot per year for the first several years. and that you shouldn’t expect to see much growth at all in the first 2-3 years. Once established (can take up to 10 years), the tree will grow at a rapid rate of about 12 feet per year until reaching full height.

But, my personal experience was a bit different (see the chart below).

The first and second year after planting it only grew a total of 6″. But, I had to change the location of the tree the spring after planting it, which may have slowed down the growth a bit.

The third year it grew 16″. So, only 22″ total in the first 3 years, which is even slower than the slow predictive numbers provided.

P a i n f u l l y S l o w.

But, I think it’s over the hump now, growing consistently over 30″ per year.

I’ll continue to track the growth as long as I can reach it to measure.

Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ Growth Rate

Gingko photos from 2017 and 2022
Between 2017 and 2022, my Gingko ‘Autumn Gold’ has grown about 89″ (7’5″) .

I planted a Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ tree in July, 2017. I’ve been measuring it’s growth each year and will continue to add the measurements here. The third season after planting (2020) is when my ginkgo finally started putting on new significant growth.

DateHeightGrowth (in)
July, 20174′ 10″ (58″)
August, 20185′ 0″ (60″)2″ *
October, 20195′ 4″ (64″)4″
September, 20206′ 8″ (80″)16″
October, 20219′ 2″ (110″)30″
September, 202212′ 3″ (147″)37″
Growth rate of my Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ tree since planting in July, 2017.
*Changed the location of the tree in 2018, which may have slowed down the growth.

History of the Ginkgo Tree: “a living fossil”

Ginkgo Fossil

The Gingko tree is a living fossil. The earliest fan-shaped leaf fossils found date back to 270 million years ago. It’s the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants that scientists believe to grow millions of years ago. Rediscovered in China in 1691, the Ginkgo was brought to the USA in the late 1700s.

Ginkgo is most commonly known for its medicinal uses throughout the world. Throughout the world, the seeds and leaves of the Ginkgo continue to be used to improve memory and cure other ailments.

Ginkgo is Very Tolerant of Harsh Conditions and Pests

Street lined with Ginkgo Autumn Gold
Tolerant to urban pollution and soil salt, Ginkgo Autumn Gold is a great streetside tree.

Rarely bothered by insects or diseases, the ‘Autumn Gold’ Ginkgo is easy to care for and elegant. Tolerant to urban pollution and soil salt, Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ makes a great street side tree. It also works well in lawns and even tucked into a confined space.

The ‘Autumn Gold’ variety is a male strain of the tree. This means it doesn’t produce messy fruit that you’ll need to clean up.

While warding off most harmful diseases, Ginkgos can fall victim to oleander leaf scorch disease. This can hinder the growth of the tree and ultimately lead to the tree’s death. In the early stages you’ll notice sporadic yellowing of foliage on entire branches. There doesn’t seem to be a cure for this so you’d need to remove the tree.

Beyond oleander leaf scorch, it’s generally considered pest-free.

‘Autumn Gold’ is Named for Its Blazing Yellow Foliage

Ginkgo Autumn Gold Blazing Yellow Foliage
Blazing yellow foliage of the ginkgo autumn gold is beautiful when backlit by the sun.

In autumn, the fan-shaped leaves of the Ginkgo turn a uniform, golden yellow color. This tree looks spectacular when backlit by early morning or late afternoon sun. Its open branching structure means you see more color and dazzling hues on ‘Autumn Gold’ than other Ginkgo varieties.

‘Autumn Gold’ drops its leaves rapidly, leaving a blanket of yellow underfoot

Blanket of Ginkgo Autumn Gold Leaves
Blanket of Ginkgo Autumn Gold Leaves

After persisting for several weeks, the yellow leaves drop rapidly, forming a golden carpet around the tree. It’s a really unique and spectacular sight to see and is what initially drew me to this tree.

What’s so unique about this tree is that when the leaves decide to drop, they drop all at once! Its dropped leaves cover the ground in a blanket of gold. What’s great is that you can enjoy the display for a few days, then rake them up all at once (my kind of maintenance)! Don’t forget to jump in the piles a few times for me!

‘Autumn Gold’ is a Male Variety of Ginkgo (No Stinky, Messy Fruit)

Ginkgo Fruit Closeup

Nuts contained inside flesh of fruits on female tree considered a delicacy and food for long life by Asian people. But, ginkgo seeds are toxic and should not be eaten in either raw or roasted forms. The seeds can be made relatively safe through proper preparation, but it’s best to play it safe and avoid eating the seeds altogether.

The messy, stinky fruit produced by female varieties of the Ginkgo tree can actually be quite a nuisance. Luckily, the ‘Autumn Gold’ variety of Gingko is ALWAYS male… meaning it won’t produce fruit.

The disadvantage of male Ginkgo biloba trees is that they are highly allergenic. They have an OPALS allergy scale rating of 7 (out of 10), whereas female trees, which can produce no pollen, have an OPALS allergy scale rating of 2.

The best kept secrets of Ginkgo Autumn Gold
Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Wrapping Up

Overall I really love the beautiful, ancient Ginkgo, or Maidenhair tree. ‘Autumn Gold’ is a non-fruit bearing male variety with fan or lobed-shaped leaves. In the autumn it’s leaves drop rapidly forming a golden yellow carpet underneath its canopy. This tree’s biggest downfall, in my opinion, is that it’s not native to the US.

The Ginkgo Autumn Gold is tolerant of harsh conditions and is fairly pest and disease resistant. However, male varieties like this ginkgo tend to produce more pollen than the female varieties. The Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ also grows very slowly in its first few years. After that, growth will take off!

I am patiently awaiting the growth of my beautiful tree, as its still in the first few years of its life. If you’re as patient as me, this tree could be a gorgeous and easy-care choice. Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’ is a fall centerpiece in the landscape and a gift to future generations to come.

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  1. Loved this post! And the photos were magnificent! My husband and I are having a house built (smaller and on 2.5 acres) and need trees. I wanted something stunning but nothing that leaves acorns, etc., like oak, maple, etc. And I have always loved ginkos – so why have I never gotten any????? Well, I will when we move!

    1. Thanks Janet! I love them too. Just be sure to get a male ginkgo. I love them too… the only downfall is the slow growth rate in the beginning but they are so gorgeous I think it’s worth the wait!

      1. No wonder they’re slow – they’re male!!! Thanks for the tip! Will get several males! Three would make a pretty statement!

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