12. Ginkgo

(Ginkgo biloba)

Other Common Names: ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, Japanese silver apricot, baiguo, bai guo ye, kew tree, yinhsing (yin-hsing)

Family: Ginkgoaceae

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The Burke Museum displays fossilized Ginkgo leaves 48 million years old which look like the ones before you. This tree of ancient lineage is the oldest unchanged tree species on the planet, so is aptly called Golden Fossil tree (it turns yellow-gold in fall). The ginkgo by the Aerospace and Engineering building is still young and has not flowered yet. Male ginkgo catkins droop conspicuously in April; female trees produce tiny green flowers that give rise to orange, plum-like fruit in October. Within the pungent fruit is an edible nut, much prized in the tree's native China.

Extracts of ginkgo leaf are rumored to increase memory potential and treat many illnesses, and it has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.  Ginkgo are resistant to disease and insects and because of this they have been known to live up to 2,500 years. Ginkgo grows best in soils that are well-watered and well-drained. The wood of Ginkgo trees is lightweight and brittle and does not have many uses.

[Ginkgo leaves]

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