Not your average Gingko tree

‘What the heck are these things growing on this gingko tree?’

That was the question everyone was asking a few months ago while on the Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour in Sacramento, CA.  

After doing a little research, I found out that these growths are really, really rare.

The Japanese call these growths Chichi (which translates into ‘nipples’.)  And it turns out these aerial roots are formed on ginkos that are at least 100 years old.

These aerial roots will continue to grow downwards, eventually reaching the ground, taking another hundred years!

Some people in Japan use these roots to grow unique bonsai by cutting one off and potting it upside-down. Once planted, the root will soon sprout little gingko leaves at the top.  

One site I checked said ‘good luck finding any trees like this outside of China or Japan, as many are protected by law‘.

Hmmm…next time I’m in Sacramento I think I’ll knock on the homeowner’s door and let them know what an amazing treasure they have growing in their front garden!

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  • They are a treasure. I particularly love the leaves. Besides having something that shows color in the fall (I am originally from the Midwest and people back home say there is no fall color in the Bay Area), I like how the veins run parallel from the base of the leaf. I cannot think of another tree that has that trait.

    • Interesting observation! I never really thought about the parallel-veins, but you’re absolutely right – they’re really cool! Thanks for pointing that out to me……

  • Susan – Ewww! It DOES look like a creepy face…kinda like a scary praying mantis-face……

  • Very cool in an awesomely creepy way. Am I the only one who thinks limb in front looks like a face with horns?

    P.S. Regarding Debra’s story, I suggest bypassing the book idea and heading straight to Hollywood to pitch.

  • Aren’t you temptd to attempt a bonsai? I’d knock on the homeowner’s door and ask if I could have one of those weird appendages—must be a few that wouldn’t be missed.

    Say, you know what would be cool? If the person who owned the tree had fallen on hard times and really needs money (perhaps in order to keep the house and not sell to a wiley developer who wants to raze it and build condos) and you show up and explain how valuable the tree is, and suddenly the destitute (but lovely) homeowner makes a killing selling, um, chichis on the Internet…not so many, of course, that the beauty of the tree or its health would be compromised…hmm, you don’t want to write garden fiction, do you? ‘Cause I think there’s a plot here!

    • Boy – you can tell an author from a mile away!!! Brilliant story line! Not only is the poor woman destitute (but lovely), but she has to support her 9 adopted Russian children…all the while taking care of her husband, who lays comatose from being kicked in the head by a horse years ago (wait…I think I’m plagiarizing now…wasn’t that a scene from Lonesome Dove?)…

      I think I may have to take a road trip to Sacramento now…to see if there’s a spare Chi-chi lying around that no one will miss…

  • wow.. that is an amazing Ginko tree. Mine looks NOTHING like the one you shared.
    Your photography makes me feel like I am right under the tree. WONDERFUL… Happy New YEar!

  • The chi-chis are amazing-as is the venerable old gingko. I love those trees, but never plant females due to the stench.

    Tell your mom she has a great eye!

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

    • Yes – I’ve learned everything I know from my mother!! I’ve never had the (dis)pleasure of smelling a female tree, have only heard about the trauma…
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Very interesting! I wouldn’t have guessed that those were roots. I figured some unusual gall. I love ginkgos for their fall color.

    • I thought they were some funky gall, too! Glad you liked the post – and nice hearing from you! – R

  • One might comment that Sequoia sempervirens (Giant Redwoods) are more than 2 200 years old, and some other trees are even older.

    But that’s kind of besides the point because these are, indeed, very cool trees. Thanks for sharing.

  • Well, just goes to show, you learn something new every day. I remembered that Ginkos had a long life, but didn’t realize just how long. Love to see one with aerial roots reaching the ground someday. Guess there’s a trip to the Orient in my future. I bet the City Arborist knows that tree, whether the homeowner fully understands or not. Was this in the old Sutterville neighborhood by William Land Park? Lots of great old homes and yards around there. Thanks for the unusual lesson.

    • Not sure of the neighborhood’s name, will try and find out though….and you’re right – I sure HOPE the city’s arborist knows about that tree. I’m serious when I say I hope to someday let the owner know what a treasure they have….glad you liked it!

    • Thanks Joseph and Town Mouse…I love Ginkos…alas, I don’t have one in my own garden…and probably never will since they grow so FREAKING slow…but I can always admire them from afar!

  • That’s amazing. Even more amazing because she captured it while all its pretty gold leaves were still there. I don’t know about you guys, but here the leaves are gold one day, and then completely gone the next.

    BTW, your RSS is BACK! I’m so glad!

    • Yes – they’re a fleeting beauty, that’s for sure. The leaves hang on here for a few weeks only – then they’re raining down gold for the next week and it’s ‘Show’s Over Folks’….

  • Definitely need patience with gingkoes…I always say I should have planted mine about twenty years before I was born. I planted it five years ago and it’s about 4 feet tall. It and my bristlecone pine are testimonies to my faith in the world hanging around for a while yet.

    • That’s so funny…I say the same thing! I should’ve planted one when I thought of it about 10 years ago. It would’ve been at least 3 feet tall by now (haha!). I’m 44 now, and am afraid if I plant one now, I won’t live long enough to see it in all it’s glory, so will just have to enjoy them in others’ gardens…I’ve never been known for patience!

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