The Amazing Ginkgo

Evolution and Ancestors
Natural History

This website is one of two final projects for my college biology class. If you are searching for information about ginkgo trees, you will find quite alot in this web site, and also at the sources I used.

Photo by Jon Bradford, courtesy free content

The Ginkgo or Maidenhair tree ginkgo biloba linnaeus

Kingdom - Plantae

   Division - Ginkgophyta

      Class - Ginkgoopsida

        Order - Ginkgoales

           Family - Ginkgoaceae

             Genus – Ginkgo L.

                Species – ginkgo biloba L. (USDA [USDA], )



Gingko biloba “may cure Alzheimer's disease, increase circulation, tastes like almonds and smells like rancid butter” (University of California Museum of Paleontology) This tree lives in temperate areas of the world. The leaves are a unique fan shape that is the distinguishing feature that places them in the Ginkgophyta division. It can grow 40 –70 feet tall depending on the variety.  Ginkgoes were almost extinct at one point, but since the Chinese propagated it, it has come back. In China, the gingko biloba is considered sacred by Buddhists. It has been planted in many countries now. It can withstand poor growing conditions, and air quality. Ginkgo leaf extract is believed to have medicinal properties. The first mention of this was in 2800 B.C. (The Green Web Exotic Seeds) The fruit of the female tree has an undesirable foul odor, because it contains butyric acid, and also can be caustic to skin, similar to poison ivy. However, after the outer coating is removed, (while wearing gloves!), the seed is edible. The ginkgo biloba or maidenhair tree has changed little since prehistoric times. It is the only surviving member of its Division, Ginkgophyta.  The common name, maidenhair tree was given to this tree because of the leaves resemblance to the maidenhair fern. The name ginkgo comes from a word that means silver apricot. It can live to be over 1,000 years old.


1,000 year old Ginkgo tree in Japan.

Conservation issues


Female trees are undesireable because of the noxious fruit they drop.Therefore, "trees are almost exclusively propagated from cuttings (asexual).(to assure male trees) This has resulted in a loss in genetic diversity under cultivation worldwide.” (Storey)

It is believed to be extinct in the wild.

G. biloba, are still on the "New York Botanical Garden Threatened and Endangered Plant List”.(The Green Web Exotic Seeds)

G. biloba are on the list of globally threatened taxa of vascular plants.(World Conservation Monitoring Centre and United Nations Monitoring Programme, 2001)

Bulleted highlights


* Ginkgo biloba is the only living plant in its division.

* This tree has not  changed much since prehistoric times.

* It has been shown to have medicinal value.

* Although g.biloba is cultivated and planted by humans, it is endangered, and at risk for loss of biodiversity  because of propagation by cuttings rather than by seed, due to humans preferance for male trees.

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