The Glorious Gingko Tree in Seoul

When I first came to Korea, I quickly noticed that the glorious gingko tree in Seoul was the flora of choice to line the busy streets.

Close up of bright yellow gingko leaves and fruit.

At the time, however, I didn’t think the gingko was so wonderful.

After all, Seoul doesn’t have many landscaped medians or sidewalks, so I felt that this seemingly unremarkable tree, with its rough, dark bark and small, pale-green, fan-shaped leaves, was a disappointing choice.

Why couldn’t Seoul have imported Jinhae’s beloved cherry trees or some of the big-leaf maples found in New England towns?

Vertical image of a woman walking down stone steps from a stone house with a large yellow gingko tree in full bloom. Yellow leaves and fruits line the pathway.
The Ewha University campus features some pretty spectacular horticulture, including lots of golden ginkgo trees.

These questions became more pointed in early October, when the glorious gingko tree in Seoul began to drop its stinky little fruits all over the sidewalk!

Step on one and you’d probably regret it for the rest of the day!

But this time last year, when autumn truly swept in and the temperatures fell, these previously unremarkable trees morphed.

Suddenly their hohum leaves turned a solid gold, which contrasted beautifully with their black bark.

Now, count me among their greatest fans. The glorious gingko tree in Seoul is something to look forward to every year!

About Matt Kelley

Matt Kelly is native of the US Pacific Northwest and is half-Korean by ethnicity. He lived in Korea for five years and has written hundreds of travel guides for Wallpaper, TimeOut, the Boston Globe and Seoul Magazine and was a host for several different variety shows on Korean radio and television.

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