||A primitive genus containing a single species and given its own family, Ginkgoaceae, Ginkgo is quite different from all other conifers. Fossil records show it to be very ancient. Now unknown in the wild, it was certainly grown in China in the eleventh century ad; some specimens are believed to be well over 1,000 years old. It was widely planted around Buddhist temples. The foliage resembles that of the maidenhair fern, hence the common name. Pollination is achieved by motile spores, a feature unknown among the higher plants, but normal among ferns. Male and female flowers are carried on separate trees.
||CULTIVATION: The ginkgo is an attractive and quite widely planted tree which tolerates a wide range of conditions, including atmospheric pollution, which makes it potentially useful as a street tree. Male trees are often preferred as they do not produce the rather unpleasant-smelling fruits of the female. The fruits, however, are edible, nutritious and the source of various medicinal substances.