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Foul smelling ginkgo nuts prompt Seodaemun District to get smart

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Workers from Seodaemun District Office in western Seoul clean up ginkgo nuts from a pavement. Courtesy of Seodaemun District Office
Workers from Seodaemun District Office in western Seoul clean up ginkgo nuts from a pavement. Courtesy of Seodaemun District Office

By Ko Dong-hwan

One of nature's gifts is trees that bear seasonal fruits that, when ripe, can be hand-picked or sometimes found fallen from the trees. Usually harmless, the fruits offer untainted natural tastes to humans and animals at no costs, a great benefit to farmers relying on selling them and those who appreciate graciousness of Mother Nature.

But whenever one sees ginkgo nuts fallen and crushed on the streets and cannot help but grimace at its unpleasant excrement-like odor that follows you wherever you carry crushed bits stuck on the bottom of your shoes, it reminds that not all gifts from the Mother Nature are pretty and sweet but sometimes rather cumbersome and obnoxious.

The season has entered fall in Korea, and such uncanny scenes are abound and ubiquitous these days. So are complaints from members of the public who loathe this foul fruit borne by the female ginkgo tree.

By the end of this month, Seodaemun District in western Seoul plans to open up the shutter of its storage facilities and bring out a big rig rarely used in other seasons to remove the nuts from the trees before they fall and the district's streets begin to reek of the all-too-familiar odor.

Above, a ginkgo nut buster shakes a ginkgo tree in Seodaemun District causing the nuts to drop from the branches. Below, a net is installed around a tree near Ewha Womans University. Courtesy of Seodaemun District Office
Above, a ginkgo nut buster shakes a ginkgo tree in Seodaemun District causing the nuts to drop from the branches. Below, a net is installed around a tree near Ewha Womans University. Courtesy of Seodaemun District Office

The ginkgo nut buster is a giant iron claw attached to the a body of an excavator. The machine grips the tree trunk and vigorously shakes it at around 800 cycles per minute bringing the tree to release its nuts from its branches before the cleanup crew steps in to mop up. The district office said the using the nut buster is much more efficient than doing the job by hand.

To target as many trees in the district as possible, the office also began employing other methods. The authority has installed antenna-like nets below branches of each of 38 trees in six local areas in the district so that naturally fallen ginkgo nuts can be collected without landing on the ground.

Starting in October, the district office will also replace 40 female ginkgo trees in Chungjeongro area with nutless male trees ― they do not bear fruit. The office has counted over 3,100 ginkgo trees in Seodaemun District, 1,341 of which are female. The authority said they have been gradually replacing them with male trees in recent years.

Seodeamun District Mayor Lee Seong-heon said the district office will continue with the efforts to clean up the cruddy nuts to reduce inconvenience to residents of the district and visitors to the area.
Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr


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