Week 18 Ginkgo – Solitary and Unique

Week 18 Ginkgo Sea 银杏海 164 x 110 cm Niamh Cunningham 倪芙瑞莲2015 



I hope you are keeping well and safe .

For this week’s Tree Story /Tree facts I am delighted to be in contact with senior research scientist Prof Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (2009-2016),  director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, (UK) one of the largest botanical gardens in the world (1999-2009)  and current president of Oak Spring Garden Foundation (VA US).  Crane is also author of the book Ginkgo – the tree that time forgot.  

Some Ginkgo Facts:

Solitary and Unique:

There are only five living groups of seed plants, The five groups of living seed plants are: Ginkgo (only 1 species), cycads, conifers, flowering plants (angiosperms) and Gnetales (an obscure group). The ginkgo is the one that consists of just one species. It is solitary and unique and not very obviously related to any living plant.

Is the gingko leaf structure linked to its resilience?

The dichotomous venation of Ginkgo leaves is very strange—I don’t think anyone really understands how it came about—or what its functional significance might be.  In my opinion it is probably a simplification from leaves with more complex venation—but this is far from clear.  I’m not sure that it has anything in particular to do with the resilience of the species.

The ginkgo is mentioned in Chinese literature about 1,000 years ago. This is somewhat late for the cultivation of many plants in China. Evidence indicates that ginkgo was probably always a rather rare tree, and that it first attracted the attention of people about a thousand years ago.  It was moved around and grown for its nuts in China,  during the 14th or 15th centuries eventually  making its way up the coastal trade routes into Korea and Japan.

Peter Crane April 2020

Link: Oak Spring Garden Foundation

Link: Yale Environment 360  online magazine


Memory Palace of Trees 2020 is an ecological art practice which invites your participation to tell a story (or give some kind of information) about trees. It is a social enquiry of how to live better with the planet and with people by simply sharing stories. You are cordially invited to tell me your story of a tree or trees. (email : niamh@niamhcunningham.com) I would love to hear from you. Each week throughout 2020 a story will be posted with either an artwork already made or perhaps your story will inspire me to make a new work!