Alexis continues with the series on ancient plants she assembled during the summer:
Currently, Ginkgo biloba is the only known existing species of Ginkgoaceae. The term living fossil is often used to describe Ginkgo biloba since it appears the same today as it did in the past, as seen in the fossil record. This species dates back to about 190 million years ago, but the order to which it belongs, Ginkgoales, can be traced back earlier, to the Permian period. In the mountains of China, the species survived in Buddhist monasteries and were introduced throughout Asia around 1100 AD. It did not reach Europe or America until the 1700s. During the Cretaceous, at least five or six other Ginkgo species existed. Our knowledge of these now-extinct species is based mainly on leaf remains, since the stems and fruits rarely survive the fossilization process (Tidwell’s Common Fossil Plants of Western North America (1975)). Leaf shape also helps to distinguish different species from one another. For example, the leaf of Ginkgo dissecta has a deeply dissected blade, as the species name implies, creating several lobes.
Ginkgo biloba is a dioecious tree species native only to China, though it is cultivated around the world and has been used for many medicinal treatments. Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the only surviving wild population is reportedly found on Tianmu Mountain, in the Zhejiang province of China.