Field of Science

Ginkgo - coincidence of the day

So the Phactor was deep in concentration this morning working at constructing a photographic plate to illustrate ginkgo leaves and reproductive structures, and the telephone rings. It's a reporter from the student newspaper. "Can I ask you some questions about the smelly tree in front of the music building?" The ginkgo? "Yes, why does it smell?" Perhaps the tree is a non-vocal music critic. Pause. "Oh, ha ha, yes, I get it, but why do the fruits smell so bad?" They aren't fruits; they're seeds with a soft, fleshy outer seed coat. "But they're like fruits." No, they are seeds not fruits. "Everyone calls them fruits." Yes, so why not begin correcting their mistake? The problem is that the tree is not growing in its natural environment, so we really don't know how the smelly seed coat functioned. But think of this. Crap smells and so does carrion, but dung beetles and flies are attracted to these smells, so smelling bad is just a human perspective. "Do you think the smelly mess is a good enough reason to cut the tree down?" No. But wanting to cut down a 110 year old ginkgo tree because it bothers you for 2 weeks is a good argument for a making nature appreciation a required course. "Other ginkgo trees on campus aren't smelly; why is that?" Why don't men get pregnant? Some trees make pollen, some make seeds. "Why did they plant such a tree there?" At the sapling stage when trees can be transplanted is too young for them to be identified as either pollen or seed trees. "What if the cutting the tree was put to a student vote?" Where did you ever get the idea a democratic process would ever be involved in making such a decision? And you should know that the person who actually gets to have and use a chainsaw on this campus loves that tree. "Thank you for all your help, but I've got to get going now." What a coincidence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a "smelly" ginkgo tree right next to a patio. It was here when I moved in 20 years ago. Now the seeds cover the ground in October. I heard they were a Chinese delicacy. I looked up and followed the elaborate steps of preparation: soaking, removing the flesh, roasting. And after all that, they tasted like...NOTHING! I tried some with sugar. No help. But I love the fluttering green foliage in summer and the pools of fallen gold leaves in the fall.