Ginkgo biloba
indexthe namehistoryfossilsthe treepropagationusagebonsaiartwherenewslinks
literaturephotos - videosfaqphoto specialawardssearch-sitemapforum-blog guestbooktwitter

leafThe name

Names used in classification:
Kingdom  Plantae -- Plants
    Subkingdom  Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
        Superdivision  Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
            Division/phylum  Ginkgophyta -- Ginkgo
                Class  Ginkgoopsida
                    Order  Ginkgoales
                        Family  Ginkgoaceae -- Ginkgo family 
                           Genus  Ginkgo L.
The only living representative of the order Ginkgoales is the Ginkgo biloba.
Source: National PLANTS Database -
USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1

Ginkgo biloba:

Ginkgo : from the Chinese (later also Japanese) word Ginkyo meaning "silver apricot" (gin=silver, kyo=apricot). This term is thought to come from a romanized version for the Chinese ideograph Yin Hsing (Xing).

Many authors have discussed the question why Engelbert Kaempfer presented the name of the ginkyô-tree in such an awkward spelling in his "Amoenitates Exoticae"

*  Research in 2005 (revised 2011)  by Prof. Wolfgang Michel-Zaitsu of Kyushu University, Japan,  explains a possible answer. At Deshima Kaempfer got hold of copies of a pictorial dictionary "Kinmôzui". His linguistic information about Ginkgo was taken from Book 18 (Fruits) in the 1668 edition of this dictionary. As Kaempfer was not able to read this book he inserted a reference number into each frame and a second number to mark the Chinese characters. These numbers appear again in notes he wrote down at Deshima. 
Many of Kaempfer's notes are preserved. In "Collectanea Japonica" (British Library, Sloane Collection) are several pages with the numbers referring to the Chinese characters in the "Kinmôzui", readings are given in Latin letters. The pronunciation of the 34th Chinese character is explained wrongly as Ginkgo. This note shows that the incorrect spelling in the "Amoenitates Exoticae" is not a result of a simple misprint or misunderstanding by the typesetter in Lemgo, Germany. It was Kaempfer himself who made a small mistake with long-lasting consequences.

Ginkgo in "Kinmôzui" 1668
34th character
Kaempfer's handwriting 
in "Collectanea Japonica"
Amoenitates Exoticae
page 811 of "Amoenitates Exoticae"

The Chinese characters are explained in Japanese as ginkyô. Undoubtedly Kaempfer's Japanese assistant(s) who explained the characters readings to him pronounced them in the correct way. Y/g: in Kaempfer's handwriting the y differed significantly from the g. As both syllables kyo and gyo are consistently written as kio/kjo and gio/gjo by Kaempfer in his manuscripts one might expect he should have written Ginkjo or Ginkio instead of Ginkgo. Back in Lemgo there was no way to check the validity of his notes on plant names taken in Japan. Therefore the wrong writing Ginkgo was transferred from his notes into the "Amoenitates Exoticae".

Another possible explanation of the unusual spelling of Ginkgo is found in an article by Nagata (Hosei University), Duval and Crane (Yale University) in Taxon of February 2015:
Kaempfer's assistant was Genemon Imamura Eisei, a native of Nagasaki. Analysis of both "Kinmôzui" and "Amoenitates Exoticae" indicates that Kaempfer faithfully followed what his interpreter pronounced, using the local dialect of medieval Nagasaki in plant names.

biloba: two-lobed; bi from Latin "bis" meaning double, loba meaning lobes. The leaf is fanshaped with a split in the middle, hence two-lobed.

Pronunciation: GINK-oh by-LO-bah. Speaker

Grammar: gender masculine; plural Ginkgos or Ginkgoes.
Silver apricot: the seed has the size and appearance of a small apricot when mature and a silvery bloom on the fruit.

It is also often called Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo tree or just Ginkgo:

Maidenhair tree: the leaves resemble those of the Maidenhair fern or Adiantum.

Adiantum monochlamys (photo anon)
Kaempfer mentions a resemblance between the leaf form of 
Adiantum monochlamys Eaton and the Ginkgo


Harderwijk: Linnaeus (photo Cor Kwant)
De Hortus, Harderwijk, the Netherlands: Linnaeus and the Ginkgo.
This Ginkgo is said to be planted in 1735 by Linnaeus.
 More info and photos click here 

Other names are:

Ginkgo biloba L.: The "L" meaning Linnaeus who named it Ginkgo in his classification in 1771 adding "biloba". E. Kaempfer first called it "Ginkgo" in 1712.

Synonyms: Salisburia adiantifolia. The English botanist Smith (1797) proposed this name to honour Richard A. Salisbury, another botanist. The internationally accepted classified name Ginkgo biloba by Von Linné could not be changed however, so it remained a synonym.
Pterophyllus salisburiensis, Nelson 1866.


Yin Hsing (Xing) or Silver apricot in Chinese characters:
Ginkgo in Japanese characters (by Cor Kwant)

Sung dynasty (960-1279) Ya chio = Duck foot (pronunciation: Itcho) because of the leaves' shape.
11th century after the name became known in the capital Kaifeng Ya chio +
Yin Hsing (Xing) or silver apricot 
Both names were used at that time.
Yuan dynasty (ca. 1279-1368) The above names + in common usage also: Pei Kuo (White Fruit), Pei Yen (White Eye), Ling Yen (Spirited Eye), Jen Hsing (Nut Apricot) etc.
..mandarin duck
Mandarin ducks are regarded as love symbols in China and Japan (duck foot). (The orange brown feather -right- is called Icho-ba in Japan.)
17th century Another common name appeared: Kung Sun Shu or Grandfather-Grandson tree Only old trees bear fruit and therefore a tree planted by a man will be useful to his grandson.
Most widely used colloquial name in China nowadays Pei Kuo (White Fruit)  Yin Hsing (Silver Apricot) is the common literary name.
Fruit (= seed) also named Bai guo (ren) (Yin Hsing) Bai guo ye (leaves)

First mentioned in 15th century in dictionaries tree = Icho or Ichou  (from Chinese Ya Chio=Duck foot)ichou
fruit (seed) = Ginnan (from Chinese Yin Hsing=Silver apricot)
Also Ginkyo (silver apricot),
sometimes Grandfather-Grandson-tree, white fruit, Icho-ba (= Ginkgo feather), Ityou

Czech: Jinan dvoulalocný, Ginkgo biloba.

Danish: Tempeltræ

Dutch: Ginkgo, Tempelboom, Waaierboom, Japanse notenboom (this last name originates from the idea that the tree came from Japan and the seeds resembled nuts, but now we know this is incorrect and the name is not in common use).

English: Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo, Kew tree, Fossil tree, Temple tree.

Finnish: Neidonhiuspuu (neidon = maiden's, hiuspuu = hairtree), Temppelipuu, Ginkgo.

French: Noyer du Japon, Arbre aux quarante écus (referring to its high price in the 18th century), Arbre des pagodes, Arbre à noix or Ginkgo biloba.

German: Ginkgobaum, Goethe Baum, Ginko, Entenfussbaum, Fächerblattbaum, Mädchenhaarbaum, Weisse Frucht, Beseeltes Ei, Tausend Taler, Bajm, Elefantenohrbaum, Goldfruchtbaum, Silberaprikose, Tempelbaum, Japanbaum, Japanischer Nussbaum, Grossvater-Enkel-Baum.

Hungarian: Páfrányfenyõ.

Icelandic: Musteristré (Temple tree), Musterisviður (Temple wood).

India (Hindi):  Balkuwari.

Italian: Ginko.

Korean: Ginkgo, Hangjamok, Gongsonsu, Apgaksu, Baekgwamok and Okgwamok.


Portuguese: Nogueira-do-Japão.
globe (painting Atsuko Kato)
Singapore: Pakgor Su = white fruit.

South African: Ginkgo biloba, Maidenhair tree, Vrekboom.

Spanish:Arbol sagrado, Arbol de las Pagodes, Arbol de los 40 escudos.

Swedish: Ginkgo, Tempelträd.

Turkish: Mabet agaci (Temple tree)

Vietnamese: Cây lá quat, cây bach quà ginkgo.

Tree of Forty Gold Crowns: the leaves turn a beautiful gold colour in fall and/or the Ginkgo was very expensive to buy in former times.

Wish Tree: Artist Yoko Ono (widow of Beatle John Lennon) planted a Ginkgo in Detroit. Her message: "Wish Tree for Detroit (Michigan). Whisper your wish to the bark of the tree. Yoko Ono, 2000." "I believe we can create a more positive future through wishing", Yoko stated.

Panda of the plant kingdom: Analogy with the Giant Panda's survival in China. Also called "Botanic Giant Panda".

Peace Tree: In New Bedford (Massachusetts,USA) there's a UN Peace Tree as a community symbol of hope for world peace: the Ginkgo. It was planted in 1955 by schoolchildren as a gesture of hope that all governments would join the United Nations and work toward world peace.

Asteroid Ginkgo: Asteroid 85197 (1991 TG5) is named Ginkgo after the Ginkgo biloba tree.


Bookmark and Share


follow me on Twitter

©  Cor Kwant 
Copyright information.