Perhaps the world’s most distinctive tree, ginkgo has remained stubbornly unchanged for more than two hundred million years. A living link to the age of dinosaurs, it survived the great ice ages as a relic in China, but it earned its reprieve when people first found it useful about a thousand years ago. Today ginkgo is beloved for the elegance of its leaves, prized for its edible nuts, and revered for its longevity. Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot tells the full and fascinating story of a tree that people saved from extinction – a story that offers hope for other botanical biographies that are still being written. You can find a few amazing facts about this peculiar botanical oddity below.
- Ginkgo is a botanical oddity. Like the platypus among animals, it is a single peculiar species with no close living relatives.
- The iconic fan-shaped leaves of ginkgo have been identified as fossils from every continent. Living ginkgo trees have changed little from those that lived 200 million years ago.
- Almost driven to extinction by climate change, wild ginkgo trees survive only in China. But you can see ginkgo today in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, on the streets of Manhattan, and in parks and gardens in all but the warmest and coldest places on our planet.
- In the East, Ginkgo has been cultivated for a thousand years for its edible seeds, and many ancient trees are greatly revered by followers of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism.
- The oldest living ginkgo trees in Europe date from 1730 – 1750, when ginkgo was introduced from the East. The oldest ginkgo in North America was planted in the 1780s in the Pennsylvania garden of John Bartram a prominent early American botanist.
- Today ginkgo is grown as a botanical curiosity and a resilient street tree; extracts from ginkgo leaves have also become a top-selling herbal medicine that is believed to improve memory and learning. Its efficacy however, remains controversial.