I took a walk the other morning to give both the dog and myself a little exercise. It was a beautiful morning, cool, but not cold, calm, and sunny. As I was walking along I was noticing all the colors of leaves from the many different kinds of trees we have here in “Tree City USA, Gothenburg.” The ash trees and red maples were about done with their fall performance, but the lindens, oaks, cottonwoods and others were in the middle of their “show”.

One tree caught my eye because it was still bright green. The dog and I edged over to that side of the street and I was pleasantly surprised to see a mature Ginko tree. Ginko trees are common trees planted alongside streets and you can buy one for about $150, or maybe you received one free this summer in the tree program in which Gothenburg participated.

However, the Ginko is more than just a popular avenue tree, it is a relic. We see fossils of trees almost identical to the Ginko that date back 200 million years, well before the dinosaurs. In fact, Ginkos are so old they are considered to be the oldest form of tree still in existence today.

A native of China, Ginkos almost became extinct. The wood was excellent for building and the fruit and leaves were used in making various kinds of medicine. Today you can purchase Ginko Biloba (which is also the scientific name of the species) at health food outlets, and it is said to help brain functions.

The Ginko tree lives a long, long time. The lifespan is well over 1,000 years with the oldest known living Ginko estimated to be approximately 3,500 years old. However, without the teachings of Buddha, it would have been gone.

Buddha taught that we were to protect and nurture trees and that every individual should strive to plant and protect at least five trees throughout their lives. Because of that, Buddhist Priests would plant Ginkos within their monasteries and protect them. Elsewhere they were harvested to what would have been extinction without that protection.

Once rediscovered about 1,000 years ago when the monasteries were overrun by invaders, the tree was planted in a couple of places both in China and Japan. Today they are commonly cultivated, however, quite rare in the wild.

The Ginko has the capacity to be huge…however that takes time. The leaves are distinct and are described as “fan shaped”. The fruit has an unpleasant smell, described as similar to that of “vomit”, however the nuts are very nutritious. The tree I walked by has matured over the past 20 or so years and now, if not cut down, maybe it will live on the corner of 22nd and Avenue F for another 980 years!