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Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is a long-lived tree. The oldest known ginkgo is 3,500 years old! The species itself is often called a "living fossil," because it hasn't changed much at all since it first evolved around the same time as the dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago. It is probably the oldest tree species in existence. It is also the only species in its genus, family, order, and class, so it represents a pool of unique genetic diversity: It is not closely related to any other plant lineage alive today.

Ginkgo is a commonly cultivated tree, thriving in city parkways and gardens around the world because of its tolerance for urban conditions such as air pollution, salt spray, and poor or compacted soil. This is surprising, since it is actually endangered in its native range in China! The ginkgo is slow-growing and slow to reproduce, and its habitat is being destroyed by human activity. Ginkgo is also subject to over-harvesting because it is widely used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments including dementia, anxiety, schizophrenia, and blood clotting.

What can you do? Plant a ginkgo in your yard, and share its story with your friends and neighbors to raise awareness of threatened trees.


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