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(Maidenhair family)


Fossil species are known but one existing species of the one genus is found in eastern Asia. The plant is widely cultivated as an ornamental but since the fruits are malodorous, male trees are preferred for gardens. Historical aspects were discussed by Franklin (1959).

[Summary yet to be added]

Ginkgo biloba L.
(syns Salisburia adiantifolia Sm., Salisburia biloba Hoffmsgg.)
Maidenhair, Ginkgo Tree

The name Ginkgo biloba was originally published by Carl von Linné [1771] in Mantissa Plantarum. Several more recently published incorrect variants of the generic name may be found in the literature, including Gingko Richter [1835], Gingkyo Mayr [1906], Ginkgyo auct., and Ginkyo Mägd. [1942].

The plant is widely cultivated and perhaps found wild in eastern China. Since ancient times, in Japan, the leaves have been inserted between the pages of books as a preservative. The green seed-kernel is edible (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

An early report of the noxious effects of the fruits was provided by Starr (1913) and by Maiden (1913). Saito (1929, 1930) observed dermatitic effects of the fruit juice for humans and rabbits. Contact with the fruit caused partially generalised dermatitis; patch testing with the fruit pulp produced an irritant reaction (Bolus 1939). The shell and kernel also produced positive patch test reations (Vollmer & Halter 1939). An epidemic of linear vesicular dermatitis principally on the legs occurred in 35 North American schoolgirls who walked through the crushed fruits under a tree (Sowers et al. 1965). These authors confirmed that undiluted fruit pulp was irritant but acetone extracts of the pulp diluted to non-irritant concentrations produced positive patch test reactions in the patients and in other individuals who had dermatitis from Toxicodendron. Additional evidence of cross-sensitivity with Anacardiaceae was provided by the finding that Ginkgo sensitive patients showed positive patch test reactions to pentadecylcatechol (Sowers et al. 1965). Handling the intact fruits is said not to cause dermatitis.

Patch tests with the leaves have apparently not been performed. Ingestion of the fruit caused stomatitis and pruritus ani (Becker & Skipworth 1975). Their patient had a history of Toxicodendron dermatitis. Washing old fruits of the previous year produced dermatitis (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). The significance of patch tests (Minaki 1969) and of open tests (Becker & Skipworth 1975) is doubtful because of probable irritancy of the fruit pulp.


  • Maiden JH (1913) Additional skin-irritating plants. Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales 24(9): 778
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [WorldCat] [url]
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Richard J. Schmidt [Valid HTML 4.01!]

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