It is believed to have first appeared in Japan around 1,000 years ago and is now an integral part of the Japanese landscape. e360: You certainly see ginkgos everywhere, especially in New York City. Crane: They’re usually on the ground in the late fall here in temperate North America. But it must be part of a dispersal system. But the leaves are particularly unattractive to pests, so it doesn’t suffer from the pest problems that some trees do. There’s some evidence that it’s helpful in some ways, but the large-scale trials that we expect from our drugs these days have been unable to be really definitive about that. Ginkgo extract is made from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree. Native to China, the tree is widely cultivated, and was cultivated early in human history. The word ginkgo comes from the Chinese yinxing meaning 'silver apricot'.It was named the maidenhair tree in England because the leaves look similar to … It has various uses in traditional medicine and as a source of food. e360: One of the things you get into in the book is the broader discussion of the importance of street trees. Probably either now or in the past the smell has been attractive to animals. Considered the oldest surviving tree species, the Ginkgo biloba has been on the planet for around 200 million years and has stayed relatively unchanged. But the idea is that the tree now could be out of phase with its dispersal agents. e360: You actually have an ancient species of ginkgo, Ginkgo cranei, named after you, right?Crane: Well, yes, that’s the fossil ginkgo from North Dakota that I worked on as a researcher, which a colleague quite recently very kindly named after me. If we could go back in a time machine, maybe we would find some differences, but I suspect not. Did the medicinal use of ginkgo emerge in China, and if so, how recent is its move to the West?Crane: That’s a very interesting question, because if you look and see how ginkgo is used medicinally in China, it’s mainly the seeds that are used. I think today most people would plant males. e360: When was the ginkgo first cultivated by humans?Crane: Our best estimate is about 1,000 years ago in China, which is somewhat late for the cultivation of many plants in China. Ginkgo leaves in the autumn. How do we know that?Crane: If you look at fossils from more than 200 million years ago, you can see leaves that are very very similar to modern ginkgo leaves. More than likely, it reflects some sort of adaptation or modification in its dispersal biology. It's the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to before dinosaurs roamed the Earth – creatures that lived between 245 and 66 million years ago. I think the consensus now is that probably a couple of wild, original populations still exist in China. Here, we show that trees up to 600 y of age display similar leaf areas, leaf photosynthetic efficiencies, and seed germination rates. It is the oldest surviving tree species on the earth. I think by cultivating plants like ginkgo that are very rare in the wild, we’ve sort of taken out insurance for their long-term survival. One of our biggest shortcomings is that we can’t see the long-term, and we see that in the way we respond to all kinds of environmental issues. Probably originally as a nut — a rather unusual nut tree. It’s a bit of an enigma in that respect — it’s difficult to prove its value.e360: You write in the book about how the ginkgo’s resilience has enabled it to become quite a popular street tree — it can take a lot of abuse. 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