Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ginkgo Biloba

Walking through town the other day, I came upon this Ginkgo tree. I can clearly remember the first time my mom pointed out a Ginkgo to my sister and me - the distinctive shape of the leaves was forever etched in my mind and I've taken pride in being able to identifying a Ginkgo from that day forward. Not that it's difficult. Once you've seen one, you won't forget it. The fan-shaped leaves and bright golden color in the autumn make it easy to recognize.

But I've just learned something fascinating about the Ginkgo tree. It is considered a "living fossil," which basically means that it lived during ancient times, was once thought to be extinct, but then was rediscovered, and still exists today in a form very similar to the fossils of its prehistoric ancestors. The horseshoe crab and the cockroach have changed very little over millions of years, and are also considered living fossils.

Scientists do not know whether the Ginkgo tree still exists in the wild because it has been cultivated and tended for thousands of years by Chinese monks. The monks may have helped keep the species alive when it otherwise may have gone extinct. In any case, the Ginkgo is a wonderful tree. A brilliant example of longevity. And Ginkgo extract has also been used medicinally to help circulatory disorders and enhance memory.

May the Ginkgo live another 270 million years!


Kevin said...

I remember that walk. So far as the cockroaches and the ginkgo, there's an old wives' tale that goes:

After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are cockroaches, ginkgo, and Cher.

The thought makes me shudder with The Fear.

MC Etcher said...

The leaves actually look friendly.

Roswila said...

Wonderful photos!

We have gingkos on the narrow island down the middle of the street I live on. I love watching them in the wind. They always put me in mind of Degas ballet dancers for some reason! I also get a kick out of hearing, then running to my terrace window to watch, my neighbors swacking at them with long poles when their fruits are ready, to get them down. :-)

Karen said...

I love Degas! and I had no idea Gingkos had fruits that could be "swacked"! I'll have to pass by that tree again soon and check on the progress of the fruit.