Brandon Henke, 23, was walking to his job in Dupont Circle when he saw a round, orangey-pink object on the sidewalk. “Of course, I stomped on it,” he says.
“It ejected this viscous messy fluid all over my dress shoes, and then I had to go to a meeting and people were wrinkling their noses,” Henke says.
He took a photo of the offending berry and posted a PSA on Reddit. “Avoid at all costs!” he wrote.
Fellow Redditors quickly enlightened him. Henke had discovered what many in D.C. know all too well: ginkgo fruit, which drops from ginkgo trees in autumn and fills city blocks with a scent variously described as dead fish, unwashed feet, rotting meat and vomit.
D.C. has hundreds of ginkgos, whose fan-shaped leaves carpet the city in gold every fall.
The District Department of Transportation sprays female trees each spring with a mild pesticide that keeps them from fruiting. One or two people each year successfully petition DDOT to remove ginkgo trees from city property, says spokesman Reggie Sanders.
Neither method of “poop berry” control can be used against the massive tree Henke encountered near the Daniel Webster statue just off Scott Circle. It’s on National Park Service land.
Though Henke initially vowed to chop the tree down himself, he later admitted that it’s a nice addition to his daily commute.
“It is a pretty tree,” he says. “I guess if you’re looking for foliage and don’t really care about smell, they are perfect for that.”
Weird ginkgo facts
Living fossils, ginkgo trees haven’t changed much in 56 million years.
They have few pests and diseases, and thrive on polluted city streets.
Their fruit contains the same chemical found in poison ivy and can cause skin blisters.
Ginkgo trees would have gone extinct by now if not for human cultivation.
They are more closely related to ferns than any other type of tree on earth today.
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