Ginkgo, the Oldest Tree on the Earth
Ginkgo biloba is a prehistoric plant with a unique structure, the only one in its kind. This is a sacred tree that was hailed as the tree of life, hope, and love. This article will be especially useful for garden collectors and philosophers or connoisseurs of rarities who want to grow an ancient tree that heals from many diseases.
Description. Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree up to 50 meters high, with a trunk up to 3 meters in diameter. It lives up to 2.5 thousand years! Ginkgo is distantly related to conifers and cycads but looks more like flowering trees. The leaves are greatly expanded needles forming two lobes (rarely up to 10 lobes). The leaf is usually 5-7 cm, sometimes up to 20 cm in length and width. Leaves fall off in October or November. In a long warm autumn, leaves turn solid yellow, which looks very attractive. In a cold autumn, green leaves fall off overnight after the first frost. Flowers, like in all Gymnosperms, are called strobili.
Ginkgo is dioecious, with separate female and male trees. Female strobili are green ovules on a long stalk, with a droplet of a pollinating liquid on the end. Male strobili are whitish pollen cones with sporophils. Ginkgo blooms in May, at the same time when it comes into leaf; flowering lasts one week. The tree is wind-pollinated. Male and female trees are so similar that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between them before flowering (even by looking at buds). The female tree is often said to have a wider crown, while the male tree is said to be more columnar, but this is not always the case (Just take a look at 60-year-old trees in the Gomel central park). Ginkgo blooms at the age of 26-28, although the trees started from cuttings can start flowering earlier. Ginkgo wood is very durable and its root system is strong, which makes the tree wind-resistant. A broad crown with an irregular pattern of branches gives Ginkgo an unusual look. Large old trees develop aerial roots on the undersides of lower branches. Once they root, they provide the tree with additional support and nutrition. These roots can often be seen in millennial trees with severe trunk damage. Cracking into parts, the tree creates clones around the mother trunk. It’s an unusual way of reproduction, like with starfish, when the ray that is cut off can grow into a whole new starfish. Ginkgo produces yellowish orange stone-core fruit about 3 centimeters in diameter that only grows on female trees. Ripe fruit have an obnoxious smell. Seeds are light beige, about 2 centimeters in size.
Use and Historical Facts. Ginkgo is extremely hardy. It was a Ginkgo tree (as well as a willow and an oleander) that survived the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, growing about 2 kilometers from the epicenter. This story served as an occasion to call ginkgo a tree of life and a bearer of hope.
Paleontological data indicate that Ginkgo remained essentially unchanged since the Permian period (over 270 million years ago). At that time, there were no flowering trees, and coniferous trees of that period are now extinct. Out of large plants, only palm-like cycads and treelike ferns survived up to date. Ginkgo biloba is the only survivor of the branched Permian trees, which makes it the oldest tree on Earth. Before the Ice Age period, when the climate was warmer, Ginkgo was widely distributed in the world, from Scotland to Japan, including the whole of Siberia. Currently, there are only two natural habitat areas in the mountains of China. Monks and gardeners saved Ginkgo from extinction by planting the sacred tree close to temples and villages. It is there that you can see the oldest and tallest Ginkgo trees. Ginkgo is also widely used in bonsai, which again proves its hardiness.
According to a legend, an herbalist named Li Qingyun lived to be 256 years old. One of his tea recipes included ginkgo leaves. The leaves taken in a small amount treat cardiovascular, neurological, and sexual disorders. Active substances (antioxidants and anticoagulants) protect cells from free radicals, prevent thrombus formation and dissolve fatty deposits (plaques) in vessels, thereby improving blood flow.
As Ginkgo boosts sexual function and its leaves are heart-shaped, it is also called the tree of love.
This living fossil even filters environmental air. A Ginkgo tree grove will not only help you get healthier but also make you realize many things in life, especially after you spend a night in a hammock under a Ginkgo tree. Another surprising fact is that Ginkgo is not affected by pests or diseases. We can say that this plant has outlived its pathogens.
Because of its antiquity and because there’s a hypothesis that large dinosaurs were potential Ginkgo seed dispersers, Ginkgo is called the dinosaur tree. Ginkgo outlived dinosaurs as well, which could possibly be a reason of Ginkgo decline.
Even though the plant has very ornamental foliage, female Ginkgo trees are not planted in parks because of foul-smelling fruit. Ginkgo nuts, however, are used in Asian cuisine.
Plant Ginkgo if you want to surprise your neighbors, grow an ornamental living fossil hailed as a sacred tree of life, hope and love, breathe the air of ancient times, or improve your health. It will transform your garden for you and for future generations.