Ginkgo biloba © Christina Harrison/RBG Kew

Ginkgo

Gingko in Chinese script

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo trees are living fossils – a species known from fossils and with no living relatives. They were widespread when dinosaurs were alive, around 200 million years ago, and have been saved from extinction through cultivation.

Only a few ginkgos now survive in the wild in China, but even these may have been tended by Chinese monks for more than a thousand years. Because of Buddhist associations, ginkgos often grow in temple grounds.

The name ginkgo probably comes from a Japanese version of the Chinese word yinguo meaning silver fruit. The seeds and leaves are used in Chinese medicine for various cures, including for digestion problems, asthma and hangovers. Ginkgo supplements are also claimed to improve the memory and concentration.

Back to the list of plants and objects in China Landscape

Here in Lengji, Sichuan, a temple has been placed inside an ancient ginkgo tree. © Tony Kirkham/RBG KewThe ginkgo fruit is a delicacy, though when ripe it smells of vomit. © Andrew McRobb/RBG Kew

Left: Here in Lengji, Sichuan, a temple has been placed inside an ancient ginkgo tree.

Right: The ginkgo fruit is a delicacy, though when ripe it smells of vomit.

Top left: © Christina Harrison/RBG Kew
Bottom left: © Tony Kirkham/RBG Kew
Bottom right: © Andrew McRobb/RBG Kew