Gingko Biloba first appeared over 270 Million years ago during the Permiam period so was well established during the dinosaurs Jurassic period, 60 million years later. This beautiful and early example of tree life on earth is truly an astonishing survivor of evolution. This maybe partly due to it’s longevity, there are living examples over 2500 years old in China today.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we find them growing on other planets in the universe, with algal mats 2.3 Billion years old, club mosses and liverworts 450 million years old and ferns 360 million years old. If there are Aliens out there they are most likely to be these!
There was remarkably a Gingko here in our Woodland till about 11 years ago, when it sadly died, we still have a cross section of the trunk and it was over 100 years old.
Gingko evolved during a time when there was only ferns, mosses, algae and Cycads around, long before pine cones or flowers came along for cross fertilization.
The male sporophylls in the pollen cones travel on the wind to the large fruit like seed fallen from the female tree, which has a tiny opening that captures the pollen, it then produces the motile spermatozoid which swim toward the female cell inside and fertilize it. Truly remarkable and prehistoric!
The Gingko can grow up to 50m in height, and likes a sunny position in a rich moisture retentive but well drained soil. Our young Gingko is growing happily in the woodland glade. It is easily grown from seed or branches with aerial roots. It is free of pests and diseases, they probably all died out millions of years ago! The beautiful maidenhair like leaves turn a bright yellow in Autumn and light up the wood.
The health benefits are spurious, apart from some studies showing improvement in memory and concentration in older people, maybe secondary to its circulation and blood thinning properties, and should be avoided in people with bleeding tendencies or taking Aspirin. For similar reasons, also not mixed with ginger, ginseng or garlic. Some people are allergic to gingko and can get skin rashes from the seed outer skin and leaves of the plant.
The shelled ‘nuts’ are highly prized and used in many recipes in china eg. Buddha’s delight. A delicious vegetarian stir fry dish served on special holidays such as the Lunar New Year, tofu, shitake mushroom, gingko nut, lotus root, wood ear mushroom, water chestnut, black moss, braised gluten and thread noodles are some of the chief ingredients.