Photo: by Roger Butterfield
The first trees evolved more than 300 million years ago. Their ability to produce oxygen by photosynthesis enabled other life forms, such as humans, to evolve too.
One of the earliest trees on earth, identified through fossils, was the Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree. It is the last existing member of a family of trees called the ginkgos, which together with conifers were the predominant trees on earth 250 million years ago.
Ginkgos produce male and female flowers on separate trees, and the females then produce foul smelling fruit. Therefore, it is very important to be sure to plant only male trees in the home or public landscape.
Ginkgos are deciduous and have fan-shaped leaves that are similar to the shape of the leaves on the maidenhair fern, thus the common name of maidenhair tree. The foliage turns golden yellow in autumn, and the tree has a pleasing conical shape and pale gray bark. These trees are pollinated by the wind.
Originating in China, ginkgos are found now throughout the northern hemisphere in temperate regions and can grow up to 130 feet tall. See if you can find one growing near you. Hopefully you will see it and not smell it.