Factsheet N03: Gingko biloba
The maidenhair tree or ginkgo (also spelt gingko) is a relic of prehistoric ages, being the only survivor of a genus which was widely distributed (including in Britain) 180 million years ago. It is now only found in the wild in the Tianmu Mountains of Zhejiang province in China. It has been widely cultivated for a very long time in China, Japan and Korea. Trees are quite hardy (to zone 4), tolerating winter temperatures of -25°C.
The name ginkgo derives from the Chinese, 'yin-kuo', via the Japanese pronunciation, 'gink_'. The Japanese name for the species translates to 'silver apricot'. Ginkgos are long-lived trees, probably one reason why they are primarily found around temples in Japan, Korea and Manchuria, where it is regarded as a sacred tree. The tree was introduced to Europe in around 1730, from seeds collected from trees in temple gardens.