Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nasal NIMBYism: Ginkgobilobaphobia Sweeps America

Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm.

The Telegraph’s “environment correspondent” Louise Gray writes about a growing backlash against gingko stink in the US. According to Ms. Gray,
In some US cities the trees are now being cut down for fear of pedestrians slipping on the fruit or because of complaints about the smell.
She says Easton, Pennsylvania, Bloomington, Minnesota, and Lexington, Kentucky have all banned female gingko trees.

So how bad is the smell? I described it in an American Smellscapes post:
My smell memories of Philly fester to this day. The streets between my apartment and the psych lab were lined with gingko trees and their ripe fruit would fall on the sidewalk and rot, giving off the stench of butyric acid (think stinky feet to the fifth power).
I should note that fetid gingko fruit has its fans. As I gingerly made my way to campus I would pass several old Chinese ladies gathering the stuff into garbage bags. They weren’t being altruistic: apparently they would cook off the smelly pulp and roast the tasty seeds.

Louise Gray’s article illustrates the cognitive dissonance experienced by the ecologically enlightened when they encounter a really bad smell. They can’t openly advocate the sex-based elimination of half a nonhuman species, no matter how stinky. So instead they promote the planting of more male trees to atone for the affront to Mother Gaia.
Guy Barter, Head of Gardening Advice at the Royal Horticultural Society, said more ginkgo were also likely to be planted in Britain in the future.

“With climate change they would be a good choice for the hotter, drier summers. We just have to make sure we plant male ones,” he said.
You have to love climate change: it can justify almost any social policy . . .

P.S. Ms. Gray is under the impression that Gingko biloba can spontaneously change sex. This is news to me, but I’m not a botanist. If true, it would knock Guy Barter's eco-atonement into a cocked hat. Any tree people out there care to comment?


Nathan Branch said...

I've always loved Gingko trees, but that may be because I never had any growing by the streets where I lived. We were fortunate to have Magnolia and Walnut trees outside my childhood home, both very messy as well, but much more pleasant to smell.

Avery Gilbert said...

Nathan Branch:

Magnolia and walnut, eh? Sounds idyllic. My childhood home was surrounded by pink and white oleander--one of the sixteen most deadly plant species in the world.

Just saying . . .