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Martins Ferry City Park site of ‘striptease’ acts

November 12, 2012
BETTY J. POKAS - Area Editor , Times Leader

A "STRIPTEASE" recently happened in Martins Ferry's City Park while two others occurred near the city building, but these caused little excitement.

And the incidents involved members of an old, old family.

These events didn't feature individuals but stately trees of a type that not only survived the Ice Age but also the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima.

Article Photos

T-L Photo/BETTY POKAS
WITH ITS tip pointing skyward, the ginkgo tree stands sedately near the fountain in Martins Ferry’s City Park after shedding its golden-yellow leaves in a “striptease” act.

The trees are ginkgoes, which are known as living fossils, and among the places where they endured were the palace gardens in China.

"Some experts call the tree the 'striptease' tree as after the first hard frost, the leaves turn yellow within two to three days and all fall off the tree within two more days," according to "Somerton Area Heritage: The History of Somerset and Wayne Townships, Belmont County, Ohio, including the Villages of Boston, New Castle, Somerton and Temperanceville" by Bruce A. Yarnall.

Yarnall's book reported on a ginkgo tree in Somerton, noting the owners reportedly brought three of the trees back in their luggage during one of their many trips to Europe.

Ginkgo leaves are readily recognizable with their fan shapes, sometimes with a notch in the center. They're green in the spring and summer but turn a golden yellow shade in the fall. In City Park, the golden leaves are quite a contrast when they fall amid the nearby brown leaves from a pin oak tree.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, "The Ginkgo tree is a living fossil and the earliest leaf fossils date from 270 million years ago. It was rediscovered in 1601 in China and brought to this country in the late 1700s. Individual trees may live as long as 3,000 years, and the seeds and leaves are used in medicine throughout the world."

It's sometimes known as the maidenhair tree because of the leaves' resemblance to the maidenhair fern.

These trees once thought to be extinct lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and they also are disease resistant and tolerate urban pollution and road salt.

David Beaulieu, landscaping guide, on his website reports: "Botanical.com recognizes Ginkgo biloba as 'the oldest living tree on the planet that's been used safely for over 3,000 years,' noting that this relic from dinosaur times 'was nearly wiped out during the Ice Age everywhere except in China.'

"The Ginkgo Pages website relates that those Chinese Ginkgo biloba trees were mainly found in monasteries 'in the mountains and in palace and temple gardens, where Buddhist monks cultivated the trees from about 1100 A.D. for its many good qualities.' Plant collectors from the West eventually were sold on Ginkgo biloba trees and brought specimens home."

These unique trees have no close relatives.

They're hardy and can grow in clay, loam, acidic and alkaline soils, and they have endured through freezing temperatures, drought and heavy rainfall. However, they do not grow well in hot and dry climates.

There are male and female ginkgoes, and the female trees have tan-orange fruits which are smelly and messy.

Not only did these trees survive the Ice Age and atomic bomb at Hiroshima, but they also were survivors during the 1923 earthquake in Tokyo.

Considered as a sacred tree in China and Japan, the ginkgo is said to have become a "bearer of hope" after surviving the atomic blast.

The ginkgoes, once somewhat rare throughout Eastern Ohio, became more plentiful in recent years. For instance, Martins Ferry's Downtown Revitalization project a few years ago resulted in ginkgo trees being planted along Fourth Street and James Wright Place where two are in front of the Martins Ferry Public Library.

Its unique shaped leaves are popular in jewelry and other items, and terms such everlasting and changelessness have been associated with these trees whose golden leaves now are blanketing the ground.

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.

 
 

 

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