The ginkgo biloba tree is also known as the living fossil mainly because this is the sole living member of Ginkgoales family. The earliest fossils of this tree date as far back as 270 millions ago which pretty much puts the tree on earth on the same time as the existence of dinosaurs. The tree of ginkgo biloba was prominent all over Asia, Europe, and North America 144 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.
The different cataclysmic events in the world resulted to the reduced number of Ginkgo. Its decline might also be partly because of the extinction of reptiles and dinosaurs that played a role in dispersing the plant’s seeds. The ginkgo vanished from the fossil record of North America around 7 million years ago and about 2.5 million years ago from Europe.
The Ginkgo Biloba Comeback
It was during this point that the scientist believed that the plant had fallen into extinction but was found later on in the country of Japan. The German botanist and physicist Engelbert Kaempfer discovered the plant in 1691. It was also able to survive in China in temple gardens and monasteries. The Buddhist monks had also cultivated the ginkgo tree ever since the 1100s.
Its seeds later on spread to Korea and Japan. It was during the early 18th century when the ginkgo seeds arrived at Europe and later in the same century, the seeds were brought to America. Many of the earlier ginkgo trees were males.
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The ginkgo trees in China had the same structure as the fossils from millions of years ago. There were several minor changes in the size of the ovule, a reduced number of the ovules, and the decrease of the individual ovule stalks.
Literary Mentions of Ginkgo
The ginkgo biloba (see more information at Vegamega) was mentioned for the first time in Chinese literature during 11th century in the time of the Sung dynasty. After this, it also appeared all over Chinese poetry and art. Its seeds or fruits and leaves were usually praised in literary pieces. The use of seeds in herbals was first mentioned during 1280 to 1368 in the time of the Yuan dynasty.