Friday, August 07, 2015

Maidenhair Tree

As Katy and I wandered the more salubrious streets of Richmond waiting for our daughters to return from camp, this Ginko biloba caught my eye.
It is a freak survivor of a division of the plant kingdom known as the Ginkophyta which arose over 270 million years ago. Its closest relatives are the cycads, other 'living fossils' found mostly in the southern hemisphere. Both have motile sperm (as do the mosses, ferns and algae) which are structurally very similar. Ginkos are dioecious, meaning plants are either male or female.
The Maidenhair tree is the only species surviving in the entire division/class/order/family/genus. It was confined in the wild to central China but has been part of human culture for thousands of years.
It is used medicinally and as a food plant, but is also a popular specimen tree due to its peculiar growth habit and good autumn colours. In fact only yesterday Abbey and I were talking about getting one for the garden.  

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