Ginkgo Stinko

Ginkgo Berries
Originally uploaded by brownpau

With regard to Wonkette’s report on widespread city stink, the most likely culprit is the malodorous ginkgo seed, which the trees shed in late fall to early winter — to fall all over the sidewalk. The seed is encased in a fleshy berry-like layer called a sarcotesta, which contains butanoic acid — a chemical found in vomit, feces, and rancid butter. (And delicious parmesan cheese!)

You’ve probably had to step through a few layers of ginkgo while walking around for the last few weeks, thus carrying a sarcotesta-rrific fragrance on the soles of your shoes around the city, into your homes, offices, on to the Metro, and everywhere else. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and wipe your feet thoroughly before going indoors. Gladly, winter is arriving, and ginkgo seeds will not be dropping from the trees for much longer.

Roving Asian mendicant, can occasionally be seen wandering the streets of downtown Washington, muttering unintelligible gibberish to passers-by while pushing a “bag lady” shopping cart full of old blankets, American flags, soda cans, and healthy secondhand snacks from organic food shop dumpsters. Used to live in a cardboard box at 16th and K but the rent was too expensive.

4 thoughts on “Ginkgo Stinko

  1. I think that the decision to use gingko as a common street tree came from the Department of Bad Ideas. They’re not bad as specimen trees, but miscast over a sidewalk.

  2. I hate these goddamned trees. They had them where I did my undergrad, and they stank up the residential parts of campus for all of November and December, and the stank was fierce. Their leaves are pretty on the trees, but they’re like flying razors come the fall. Hate. Burning, burning hate.

  3. I lived at an apartment that had a ginkgo tree outside. Apparently it is only the male of the species that has balls, just like with humans. When you step on ginkgo balls, they stink like hell.

    I thought there was a dead body around because it was that type of neighborhood anyway. It smelled like a warmed-up morgue. My neighbor soon let me know what was what. Later, a boss asked me if he should get ginkgo trees for his yard and I related this story. I think he bought an apple tree instead.

  4. Go up to R Street in Georgetown by Dumbarton Oaks. There are a million Gingko trees with a plethora of fruit of the branch and on the ground. I almost killed myself slipping on one of those smelly buggers.

    The reason why there are so many Gingko tree in DC, and NYC I might add, is because the Ginkgo is a good urban tree because of its ability to tolerate drought, heat, and poor soils.

    City planners should have checked the tree guide at to see this recommendation: Some complain of the mess and odor and recommend planting only the male of the species.