Ginkgo biloba

Family: Ginkgoaceae

Countries: Asia, China

Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree, often known by its common name of the maidenhair tree.  Many writers describe Ginkgo biloba as a living fossil, as these trees have been growing on the planet since before the time of the dinosaurs.  Ginkgo biloba is the last survivor of the Ginkgos, the other trees from this genus have now all sadly died out.  Ginkgo biloba form tall trees, they can grow to up to 40m in height and make fantastic specimen trees.

Ginkgo biloba are dioecious trees – this means that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants.  Male trees are often preferred, as once they are mature, female trees produce yellow fruits, which have a rather unpleasant fragrance.

A single seed forms inside the fleshy fruits of Ginkgo biloba, which is known as a Ginkgo nut.  Despite the unpleasant fragrance that the outer flesh of the fruits produce, the seed inside is considered a delicacy when baked.  It’s very important that the seeds of Ginkgo biloba are thoroughly cooked before they are eaten, as the Ginkgotoxin (4′-O-methylpyridoxine), is a constituent of the seeds.  This toxin may cause poisoning, unless the seeds have been cooked sufficiently.

This is an important medicinal plant.  Compounds and extracts found in the seed and leaves of Ginkgo biloba are widely used in Chinese, European, and American medicine.

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