Autumn greets us in September with the perfume of ripening apples and the smoky smell of burning logs, and then leaves us a few months later with the earthy odor of decaying leaves and the acidic scent of decomposing fruit and seeds. Of all of autumn’s aromas, the one that defines the season for me is the smell of rotting ginkgo nuts.
Peter Crane’s Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, a biography of the ancient species, describes the stench of ginkgo seeds as akin to rancid butter or human vomit. He writes:
My backyard is full of ginkgo trees, which I’ve learned to love despite the smelly seeds the females of the species produce each fall. They are elegant trees with beautiful, fan-shaped leaves. They are among the last trees to change color, turning gold for two or three weeks before shedding en masse. Golden ginkgo leaves grace the cover of Amelia Elkins Elkins, my modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and the trees also make appearances in both Two Lovely Berries, my new adult novel, and Anusha of Prospect Corner, the middle grade novel I wrote with my twins (forthcoming, January 2017). For example:
- Amelia Elkins Elkins:
- Two Lovely Berries:
- Anusha of Prospect Corner:
The ginkgo trees in my garden are suburban giants, bigger than their city cousins but smaller than the species is capable of growing. All of my ginkgo trees are male except, unfortunately, for the tree closest to my house. That one has covered my back porch with its noxious seeds every year but this one. For some reason, there are no seeds this year, and for some reason, I miss them. Autumn just isn’t the same without their aroma.