The ginkgo is a survivor. It was here with the dinosaurs and is possibly the world’s oldest living tree species. Fossil remains have been found all over the world. From the end of the last Ice Age its distribution contracted to China. It was grown in temple gardens where today there are trees 1000 years old and possibly as old as 3000 years. The ginkgo was used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat asthma and improve blood circulation, and similar therapeutic claims are made for it today. It is a hardy plant, tolerant of harsh conditions, as those surviving the polluted air of many Chinese avenues attest.
The tree in the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens is male and about fifty years old – just a baby. The Geelong Botanic Gardens has a gnarled old monster planted in 1859, the oldest ginkgo in Australia and possibly the oldest tree in the gardens. The male specimen in Kew Gardens was planted in 1762 and is more than 24m (80ft) in height.
Lie below the ginkgo and watch the sky through the lacework of its leaves. Dream of Ice Ages, dinosaurs, monasteries, temples and age old trees in distant lands. It is truly magic.