The Wonderful Ginkgo
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Let me introduce you to "strange" in the wonderful world of survival.
The Ginkgo tree has survived longer on this earth than did the dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs finally did arrive they found they had a tasty tree to munch on that had fruit (or nuts) and nourishing leaves. In other words, the ginkgo predates the Dinosaurs!
TO SEE THE LANDSCAPE through a dinosaur's eyes; plant a ginkgo. This tree, with its whorled, angular limbs and fan-shape leaves, has changed little in 200 million years. It offers a glimpse of what the forests of northern Pangaea, the hypothetical landmass that would break into the world's continents, must have looked like before the evolution of flowering plants.
Come fall, the timeless ginkgo takes on an immediate beauty, when cool weather turns its foliage gold. Even more dramatic is the finale: The tree drops its leaves in a matter of hours, turning the earth below into a mirror of the autumnal sun.
By the early 1690's, when Engelbert Kaempfer, a surgeon with the Dutch East India Company, collected seeds, the ginkgo's range had dwindled to parts of Asia, notably eastern China. Kaempfer found his first example in a Japanese temple garden. Buddhist monks, who cultivated the tree for its edible seeds and medicinal properties, had transplanted it to sanctuaries all over the region. Their plantings remain awe-inspiring. Outside one Korean temple stands a ginkgo with a trunk about 15 feet in diameter; it's reputed to be 1,100 years old.
A key to the ginkgo's longevity is its immunity to pests and fungal diseases. Plus, ginkgoes are tough. One in Hiroshima, located three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the 1945 atomic blast, still flourishes, despite the obliteration of the temple that hosted it. Offspring of Kaempfer's seedlings arrived in North America in 1784 and soon became popular as street trees. Enthusiasm cooled, however, as the plantings matured and female specimens began to bear nutlike seeds with a fleshy coat that, as one Britisher puts it, smells "somewhat like a sewerage works on a hot day." When properly processed, ginkgo seeds become a tasty, nutritious food. Although when you over indulge you can become very ill. Ginkgo orchards are common in China, where an extract of the leaves as well as the crushed leaves themselves are used for medicinal purposes
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