Today the ginkgo tree is admired for the its distinctive leaves, although the fruit and other products are also of value. Living specimens are also noted for their longevity. Remarkably, the species has been extant 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. Inspired by the historic ginkgo that has thrived in London’s Kew Gardens since the 1760s, botanist Peter Crane explores the evolutionary history of the species from its origin through its proliferation, drastic decline, and ultimate resurgence. Crane also highlights the cultural and social significance of the ginkgo: its medicinal and nutritional uses, its power as a source of artistic and religious inspiration, and its importance as one of the world’s most popular street trees.
Peter Crane is Dean and professor, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, and former director of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.