The following article originally ran December 14, 2008. With the arrival of fall — and the unsavory smell of the falling fruit of Ginkgo trees hitting local sidewalks, we thought it was a good time post the article again.
Update from October 10, 2009: I was looking at the site stats and noticed that this post from December 14, 2008, had gotten a lot of hits today. I guess the Ginkgo trees are smelling like dog poo lately… and the berries are certainly falling on the Corcoran Street sidewalks. So… here you go: Here is why Ginkgo tree berries smell like dog poo.
I have never been able to figure out two things:
- Why would anyone would plant Ginkgo trees in a city, especially in neighborhoods with a high volume of pedestrian sidewalk traffic? Yes, I am thinking of the 1500-block of Corcoran Street NW — see Corcoran Street: Down Go the Ginkgos.
- What makes Ginkgo tree fruit smell like dog poop?
The second question has been answered. I would love to hear from readers as to the “why” in question number one. It is worth noting that the smell and mess from the falling fruit is so bad that the DC government sprays the female trees in the spring to “to prevent the notoriously unpleasant odor of the popular ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) from overtaking city streets.”
From The Washington Post, December 13, 2008:
The bouquet of a ginkgo tree’s fruit has strong notes of unwashed feet and Diaper Genie, with noticeable hints of spoiled butter. For the District government this winter, it is the smell of defeat. This year, arborists working for the city tried a new solution for the stinky fruit, which has plagued residents for decades. They injected more than 1,000 ginkgo biloba trees with a chemical to stop them from producing the fruit. Whoops. The chemical didn’t work, for reasons that scientists still don’t understand. Now, instead of less ginkgo stink, Washington has its worst case in years — a bumper crop of nastiness that is studding sidewalks and sliming dress shoes from Capitol Hill to Kalorama. Read entire Post story.
The city cut down seven mature female Ginkgo trees Tuesday on the 1500-block of Corcoran Street NW. City officials talked to residents on the block before making the decision and will replace the Ginkgos with other varieties.
Still, it’s unnerving to see some pretty big holes in the shade canopy on the 1500 block, although I know how much nastiness and messiness they caused with their berries. (See Why Do Ginkgo Tree Berries Smell Like Dog Poo?) Efforts to spray the female trees over the years ultimately proved not enough to stem the smelly squishy berries.
The replacement of the Ginkgo trees follows the installation of brick sidewalks on this stretch of Corcoran.