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Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)—Grant Heilman Photography
Tree (Ginkgo biloba, family Ginkgoaceae) that is the only living representative of the gymnosperm order Ginkgoales. Native to China, it is often termed a living fossil because it is unclear whether uncultivated groups can be found in the wild. It has been planted since ancient times in Chinese and Japanese temple gardens and is now valued in many parts of the world as an attractive, fungus- and insect-resistant ornamental tree. It tolerates cold weather and, unlike most gymnosperms, can survive the adverse atmospheric conditions of urban areas. Pyramidal in shape, it has a columnar, sparingly branched trunk. The light-coloured wood, soft and weak, has little economic value. The fan-shaped, leathery leaves, most divided into two lobes by a central notch, resemble the leaflets of the maidenhair fern. The silvery nut, when roasted, is considered a delicacy. Studies have suggested that Ginkgo biloba supplements can enhance memory function in the elderly and delay the onset of Alzheimer disease.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ginkgo, visit Britannica.com.