The fan-shaped leaves distinguish this tree from all others in the forest. The female trees bear fleshy plum-like seeds that produce a potent stench in autumn when they rot (Coombes 1992).
Ginkgo is the only member of its family. This species is the sole survivor of a group of plants more primitive than the conifers. It is believed that monks in China saved the ginkgo from extinction. They cultivated seeds and grew trees, thus saving this species. All ginkgos in this region of the world are the result of cultivation.