A “living fossil” is any organism that appeared millions of years ago. That fossil survives today and it is relatively unchanged.
The maidenhair tree or Ginkgo biloba, ticks all the boxes of this definition. It is well known in China and Japan. It has special significance in Buddhism and Confucianism. It became known to European botanists in the late 1600s.
Now, ancient ginkgo fossils can be found all over the world. Some of them can be even 300 million years old. We will know what makes this species so remarkable. It has the ability to survive nuclear bombs.
The ginkgo evolved long ago and it spread across the super continent Pangaea. It is present in both the northern component and the southern part.
Ginkgo australis fossils are there the cretaceous period in the Koonwarra Fish Fossil beds near Leongatha. There is also a recent fossil from Tasmania.
Ginkgo biloba can grow up to 35 meters tall with a spreading canopy. Its leaves are its leaves are a wonderful fan shape.
The maidenhair tree is both hardy and resilient. It tolerates a wide range of soil and climatic conditions.
The tree is known to be very long-lived. Some say that it is 1,000 years old and this explains the mystic nature of the species.
They have a lignotuber which is a modified stem at the base of the trunk containing lots of buds. This allows the trees for rapid recovery from serious environmental stresses.
Some trees did not survive the bombing of Hiroshima. Some trees have recovered quickly. Their survival shows the resilience of the ginkgo. The tree symbolises the recovery from disaster is indeed possible.
Stinky seeds and dinosaur food
There are separate male and female trees. This feature is rare in modern trees. The male reproductive structures have mobile sperm which swim to the ovule for fertilization.
The female tree produces a seed that resembles a fruit. Outside the entrance to the Old Geology building at the University of Melbourne, a pair of female maidenhair trees was planted in the 1920s.
Also, a couple of female trees were also planted outside the entrance to a major bank branch in Hawthorn, Victoria.