Ginkgo vs Maidenhair Fern: Comparing Benefits & Care

Disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

Please note that while we always strive to provide 100% up to date and accurate information, there is always the small possibility of error. Therefore, we advise conducting further research and due diligence before consuming any plants or exposing pets to anything mentioned on this site. Kindly refer to the full disclaimer for more details here.

Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is an ancient plant considered to be one of the oldest on Earth. With fossil evidence suggesting that it has remained virtually unchanged since its debut 180 million years ago during the lower Jurassic period, enthusiasts have cherished it for centuries. Initially cultivated in China, Japan, and Korea, the maidenhair tree is admired for its attractive fan-shaped foliage that resembles the leaves of a maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp). This unique characteristic has earned it the “maidenhair” moniker.

On the other hand, maidenhair ferns are delicate, ornamental plants known for their lacy and bright green leaves. They thrive in shady environments and make popular houseplants worldwide due to their graceful appearance. Although called maidenhair fern, they are not related to the ginkgo tree, despite sharing a similar leaf shape.

In comparing ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns, it’s essential to acknowledge their distinctive features, growth habits, and care requirements. While they may share a similar common name, their appearances, growth conditions, and maintenance needs vary. Understanding the differences between these two species can help gardeners and plant enthusiasts make informed choices when deciding which of these captivating plants to introduce into their landscapes or homes.

Overview of Ginkgo and Maidenhair Fern


Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), also known as the maidenhair tree, is a unique and ancient species that is considered a “living fossil.” The ginkgo tree has remained essentially unchanged for over 180 million years since the lower Jurassic period. Cultivated for centuries in China, Japan, and Korea, it is the only living link between ferns and seed plants, making it one of the most extraordinary trees in the world.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp.) is an entirely different plant from the ginkgo tree. These ferns get their name from the delicate, hair-like appearance of their fronds. They belong to the Pteridophyta division of plants and are found in various species throughout the world.


The ginkgo tree is native to China and has been planted in Chinese and Japanese temple gardens since ancient times. Today, it is valued as an ornamental tree worldwide for its fungus- and insect-resistant properties. Ginkgo trees can tolerate cold weather and, unlike most gymnosperms, can survive adverse atmospheric conditions. They are dioecious, meaning male and female reproductive structures are found on separate trees. It is common for nurseries to exclusively offer male trees for sale, as the female trees are responsible for producing seeds that are enclosed in a cone-like structure that resembles a fruit that can be unpleasant when they mature in autumn.

Maidenhair ferns are found in a variety of climates and environments, ranging from tropical regions to temperate zones. They typically grow in moist, shady areas such as forests, ravines, and alongside streams. Maidenhair ferns have attractive, delicate fronds that make them popular indoor plants and additions to woodland gardens.

In conclusion, ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns are two distinct types of plants with unique features and origins. Understanding their differences and historical backgrounds allows us to appreciate them more fully as we encounter them in cultivation and the natural environment.

Physical Characteristics


Ginko leaf

The Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), also known as the maidenhair tree, is a deciduous gymnosperm tree that originates from China. It has a unique appearance characterized by:

  • Irregular, spreading crown
  • Distinctive, fan-shaped leaves
  • Deeply cracked, brown bark

The leaves of the Ginkgo tree are greenish-yellow, with two or more distinct lobes resembling the maidenhair fern. In the autumn, the leaves turn golden before falling to the ground. The Ginkgo tree is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. Male trees have pollen-producing floral spikes, while female trees bear small, fleshy, and unpleasant-smelling fruits.

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern leaves

The Maidenhair Fern, part of the Adiantum genus, is a group of delicate, deciduous ferns that can be found in various regions around the world. Some characteristics of Maidenhair Ferns include:

  • Delicate, feathery fronds with small, fan-shaped leaves
  • Thin, black or dark brown stalks
  • Prefers moist, shady environments

Unlike the Ginkgo tree, Maidenhair Ferns don’t produce flowers or fruits. Instead, they reproduce through the release of spores, which are contained in small, brownish clusters called sori, typically found on the underside of the leaflets.

Growth and Cultivation

In this section, we will discuss the growth and cultivation differences between ginkgo and maidenhair fern, focusing on their soil requirements, watering needs, and light conditions.

Soil Requirements

Ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba), also known as maidenhair trees, prefer well-draining soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. They can tolerate clay, loamy, and sandy soil types as long as there is adequate drainage. On the other hand, maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) require a well-draining soil mix consisting of equal parts coarse sand, peat moss, and leaf mold or compost. These ferns also thrive in slightly acidic to neutral pH conditions.

Watering Needs

Ginkgo trees are drought-tolerant, requiring moderate watering during the growing season and less frequent watering during the winter months. They can handle occasional dry spells well without suffering adverse effects. Conversely, maidenhair ferns have higher watering needs, requiring consistently moist (but not soggy) soil. They are sensitive to drying out and need regular watering to maintain their delicate appearance.

Light Conditions

Ginkgo trees are sun-loving and do best in full sun to light shade. They can grow in a range of light conditions, but optimal growth and a vibrant fall color display are observed when they are provided with adequate sunlight. On the contrary, maidenhair ferns prefer a sheltered location with dappled shade or indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch their delicate leaves, so it is crucial to provide them with appropriate lighting for healthy growth.

In summary, ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns each have distinct growth and cultivation requirements. Soil, watering, and light conditions should be tailored to suit their individual needs for optimal health and growth.

Medicinal and Traditional Uses

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is a deciduous gymnosperm tree native to China. It is referred to as a “living fossil” because of its existence for over 270 million years. Ginkgo has been valued in traditional Chinese medicine for its potential health benefits.

Some of the medicinal uses of ginkgo include its potential to:

  • Improve cognitive function and memory
  • Boost blood circulation
  • Alleviate symptoms of asthma and tinnitus
  • Act as a powerful antioxidant

However, it’s important to note that some studies have found conflicting results regarding the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba for certain health conditions. Ginkgo may result in certain adverse effects such as headaches, stomach discomfort, dizziness, palpitations, constipation, and skin irritation in individuals who are allergic to it’s reactions.

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is a plant native to Europe. It is primarily known for its ornamental value and is sometimes used in traditional medicine. Some of the potential health benefits and uses of maidenhair fern include:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Alleviating coughs and sore throats
  • Treating hair loss

It is believed that maidenhair fern contains chemicals that might provide these health benefits, but it is important to note that scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited. Additionally, maidenhair fern is sometimes used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages.

In conclusion, both ginkgo biloba and maidenhair fern have been used in traditional medicine for their potential health benefits. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using them as a supplement or treatment.

Ginkgo vs Maidenhair Fern: Similarities and Differences

Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) have some similarities but are fundamentally different plants. While they both have fan-shaped leaves that resemble each other, they belong to completely separate plant families and have some distinct differences in appearance, growth habits, and uses.


Both Ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns have unique fan-shaped leaves that give them their maidenhair name. The leaves of Ginkgo trees resemble the leaflets (pinnae) of maidenhair ferns. In addition, both plants are considered ancient, as Ginkgo trees date back to the Jurassic period, making them some of the oldest living plant species on Earth.


While there are some similarities, there are also many differences between Ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns:

  • Plant Classification: Ginkgo trees are gymnosperms, meaning they have naked seeds, while maidenhair ferns are vascular plants and classified as ferns.
  • Size and Growth Habit: Ginkgo trees can grow large and develop a spreading crown, whereas maidenhair ferns are small, delicate plants that grow in clusters, typically found in shady, moist environments.
  • Leaf Color: The leaves of Ginkgo trees are greenish-yellow and turn golden in autumn, while maidenhair ferns have delicate, bright green leaves.
  • Reproduction: Ginkgo trees are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees, while maidenhair ferns reproduce through spores, like other fern species.


Ginkgo trees have various uses, including ornamental landscaping, medicinal purposes, and as a food source. The extract from Ginkgo leaves is widely used in alternative medicine to improve blood flow and cognitive function.

Maidenhair ferns are primarily used for ornamental purposes, as they can be planted in terrariums, hanging baskets, or as ground cover in shade gardens, providing a delicate and elegant touch to these spaces.

In conclusion, while Ginkgo trees and maidenhair ferns share some similarities in appearance, they have distinct differences in their classification, growth habits, and uses, making them unique and fascinating plants to learn more about.


In comparing the Ginkgo biloba, also known as the ginkgo or maidenhair tree, and the maidenhair fern, there are several notable differences and similarities between the two. Both plants have distinct fan-shaped leaves that give them their unique appearance.

The ginkgo tree is an ancient species that has been around for over 180 million years and is considered a “living fossil.” It has been cultivated for centuries in China, Japan, and Korea, and is valued not only for its appearance but also for its medicinal uses. The tree is deciduous and can tolerate varying weather conditions, making it a resilient addition to gardens and landscape projects.

On the other hand, the maidenhair fern is a smaller, more delicate plant that grows in moist, shaded areas. It’s not as hardy as the ginkgo tree, and its habitat requirements make it more sensitive to environmental changes. However, the fern is still admired for its uniquely shaped leaves and its role in natural ecosystems.

When considering which plant to incorporate into your garden or landscaping project, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  • Size: Ginkgo trees can grow quite large, whereas maidenhair ferns are smaller and low-lying plants.
  • Environment: Ginkgo trees are more tolerant of varying climates, while maidenhair ferns require specific conditions to thrive.
  • Maintenance: Both plants are relatively low-maintenance, but the ginkgo tree may require more attention due to its size.
  • Aesthetic preferences: Depending on the look and feel you want to create, one plant may be more appealing than the other.

By taking these factors into account, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on which plant best suits your needs and preferences.

Helpful Video