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THE GINKO TREE ON THE COMMON
AT a point about one hundred and fifty feet eastward from the Guild Memorial Steps, and at the apex of a grassy triangle, whereof two sides are formed by Beacon Street Mall and a pathway leading to Winter Street, there stands a tall Gingko tree, far removed from its habitat in eastern Asia. Its name, we are told, signifies “Silver Apricot Tree” in the Chinese language. Its popular title is “Maidenhair Tree,” on account of the similarity of its leaves to those of the maidenhair fern.
The above-mentioned tree was transplanted, early in May, 1835, from the Gardiner Greene estate, which was situated in the region between Pemberton Square and Ashburton Place. When this property changed hands, it was specified that the Gingko tree should not be included in the sale; inasmuch as it was at that time the only one of its kind in the country, with the exception of a specimen at Hyde Park, a township on the Hudson River, near Poughkeepsie, New York. Accordingly this tree, which was then about forty feet in height, was transported to its present site in the Common on a low, four-wheeled truck, built for the purpose. Its removal excited general interest at that time. The tree has been overshadowed by neighboring American elms; and the loss of many branches has detracted from its former symmetry and beauty. It is to be hoped that this Asian exotic, now for many years a naturalized American, may long continue to grace its conspicuous station on the brow of Beacon Hill.
There is a majestic specimen of the Gingko family in the Public Garden. It stands at a distance of about forty feet southwesterly from the so-called Ether Monument. Another flourishing Gingko is to be seen, nearer the pond. In the public pleasure grounds of Tokyo, Japan, are some noble trees of this genus, fully one hundred feet high. According to naturalists the Gingko tree, when thriving in its native soil, bears a hard nut containing a kernel, resembling that of the apricot. This kernel has a delicate almond-like flavor, and is esteemed as a table delicacy by the Japanese. The German traveller and physician, Engelbrecht Kaempfer (1651-1716) wrote that it was an important ingredient in several Japanese dishes. And in the Far East these nuts were believed to have some therapeutic value. The Gingko is a hardy tree, and is said to be immune from the depredations of moths, beetles, and all other enemies. It bears no fruit until it has attained the age of thirty or forty years.
In 1832 Dr. Alexander de Bunge, a distinguished Russian scientist and explorer, wrote that he had seen some beautiful specimens of the Gingko growing in gardens and near Buddhist temples in northern China. One of these had a girth of about forty feet; and the only other evidence of great age was its towering height.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.