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Woody > Ginkgo > Ginkgo biloba > Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold'

Ginkgo biloba

'Autumn Gold'

Autumn Gold Maidenhair Tree

Origin:  Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ was introduced by the Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation, California, United States of America, in 1955.
            Mike's Opinion

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The Autumn Gold is a male cultivar and one of the many cultivars available of Ginkgo biloba. It offers a uniform, vibrant golden yellow colour in the autumn that can add brightness to any landscape. Through researching this cultivar, it seems like it has been lost as others have come to the horticultural world. It may not be one of the most exciting cultivars anymore; however, it will offer a beautiful specimen tree on any property while staying true to the original form of the Ginkgo biloba. It was designated as a Legacy Tree by the Chicago Botanical Gardens, in a study done in 2013. A Legacy tree will be able to adapt to the warming climate of the world and have a 50% chance or more to be around in the decade of 2080 (Maggie, W. personal communication). - Jillian Sguigna

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


'Autumn Gold'
Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
4 – 8
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-29 – (-26)
Temperature (°F)
-20 – (-15)
12 - 15 m
7 - 9 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn gold’ is a deciduous tree that can make an excellent urban landscape tree for durability and easy growth. It is a male cultivar that does not produce the unpleasant Ginkgo fruit and has a deeper, vibrant, more uniform, golden yellow colour than the straight species. The lobed, fan-shaped leaf is unique to the Ginkgo species and is highly recognizable.
It has many different landscapes uses, as it is one of the most pollution tolerant trees. Since it is a male cultivar that does not produce the fruit, that can have an unpleasant fragrance, it would make an excellent shade tree. It is commonly used as an urban or street tree, found in parking lots, large park areas, courtyards, or a specimen tree on private property. With the low maintenance required and the beautiful golden yellow colour it will add in the autumn; it is a great choice to use just about anywhere. The tree’s height must be considered, as it should not be planted under anything that can impact its growth or cause damage.
For best growth, it requires full sun. It can take either acid or alkaline soils as long as there is ample drainage. It may require summer watering while young, but once matured, it is drought tolerant (Davidson, K et al., 2020). Could use a little pruning while young to help develop a stronger structure (Gilman, E. Watson, D, 1993). It is one of the most pollution and salt-tolerant trees and can be planted in urban environments, as long as it is not directly underneath any buildings or low-hanging wires.
It is upright and symmetrically-branched, with a pyramidal (nearly conical) shape. When young, it can look sparse, but it will fill out with maturity.
ID Characteristic
This tree has a distinct lobed, fan-shaped leaf that will be untouched by any pest or diseases; they will start out as a medium green and turn to a uniform golden yellow colour in the autumn. They will have distinct parallel lines coming from the petiole to the apex of the leaf. The buds will be around 12 mm long with clusters of 3-5 leaves coming from them and attached to stout spurs covered in bud scales.
Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ has no known pest issues.
Horticultural origin.
Bark/Stem Description
The bark will be a grey-brown with furrows that become a deep darker grey with maturity. The stems will start as more of a brown colour, grow upright and be a medium thickness (Gilman, E. Watson, D, 1993). The branches will have stout spurs along them, covered in bud scales, which will make the tree have an almost stiff, thorny look in the winter. (Chicago Botanical Garden, n.d.)
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
The buds are a lighter brown colour, around 12 mm long and have a conical shape. They will produce clusters of 3-5 leaves and 5-6 male flower stamens. They are attached to stout spurs that are covered in dark grey bud scales. (Chicago Botanical Garden, n.d.)
Leaf Description
Leaves are a unique fan-shape and lobed; they resemble the maidenhair fern leaf (Chicago Botanical Garden, n.d.). They have a parallel; palmate venation, and the blade's length is 5–10 cm long (Gilman, E. Watson, D, 1993). With distinct parallel lines coming from the petiole running to the apex, they start a medium green colour and, in the autumn, turn into a vibrant, uniform golden yellow colour. Once the leaves turn golden yellow, they stay on the tree for a few weeks, then fall off mostly at once and create a blanket of gold at the base of the tree. Ginkgo leaves are heavier than other deciduous leaves, which causes them not to blow around as much, giving a cleaner appearance.
Flower Description
The male Ginkgo flower is 3 cm long, with clusters of downward sloping green stamens. They produce tiny white petals in pairs of two and go all the way down the stamen. Though the flower is not unpleasant, it does not add any interest to the tree.
Fruit Description
Only female Ginkgo can produce the fruit. The fruit on a Ginkgo is not a fruit but a naked seed. It is round and plum-shaped, starts as green and ripens to a brown, sometimes orange, colour (“Oregon State University”, n.d.). It can produce an unpleasant smell, which makes male cultivars more desirable for landscape use. Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ is a male cultivar and does not produce the fruit.
Colour Description
The leaf starts as a medium but attractive green and in the autumn turns to a vibrant, uniform, golden yellow that stands out in any environment. The flowers are green with tiny white pedals. The bark adds a medium to dark grey-brown contrast that will add to the showiness of the tree without taking away from the vibrancy of the autumn colour.
Texture Description
It has a medium texture for the majority of the year. The shoots the buds are attached to, give the tree a stout or spiky texture in the winter.
Notable Specimens
The Boone County Arboretum, located in Union, Kentucky, United States of America, has three Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ listed in their collections.
For propagation RHS recommends semi-ripe cuttings, though there are some reports of using softwood cuttings as well. If using semi-ripe cuttings, the cutting should be taken between late summer and mid-autumn, cutting it in the morning to help avoid wilting of the plant. Take a cutting that is hard at the base but still soft at the tip, between 10-15 cm long, just below a leaf node. Remove the soft tip and any extra leaves, place in a plastic bag and make sure to pot the cutting within 12 hours. For a softwood cutting, take it between spring and early summer, early in the day when the plant is still turgid. The base should be dipped into a hormone powder or liquid and planted in compost in both cases. The cutting should be taken from a healthy parent plant. (“RHS”, n.d)
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
The United States Forest Service Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet (Gilman, E. Watson, D, 1993) lists that the Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ can be used as a Bonsai tree. The history of Ginkgo biloba being used as a bonsai is minimal. The Arnold Arboretum in Boston, United States of America, does have a Ginkgo biloba in their Bonsai and Penjing collection.
Gilman, E. Watson, D. (1993). Ginkgo biloba’ Autumn Gold’. United States Forest Service Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet. Chicago Botanical Garden. n.d. Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold’. --autumn_gold_ginkgo