Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fruit Season for Living Fossils in Brooklyn

Watch your step -- it's Gingko time in Brooklyn.

These Gingko biloba fruits scattered under female trees at this time of year are called stinky by many people -- the Anti-Ginkgo Tolerance Group calls them "vomit trees" -- so the city is only planting males now. (We don't actually mind the smell, much.)

Older Chinese people can frequently be seen gathering the fruit. The nuts inside are used in cooking (in congee, among other things) and they are used in Japanese dishes as well. They are sold as "white nuts" in Asian markets. Don't eat the seeds raw -- they can be poisonous in large quantities, or in small quantities in children. Toasted, they are said to make delicious snacks.

The extract of the leaves are used in memory enhancing drugs (more here).

Gingkos -- which were around during the dinosaur days -- are called "living fossils" because they disappeared from the fossil record at the end of the Pliocene, except in a small area of China.

Can't figure out why they disappeared when they are nearly indestructible, which is why they are planted in cities so much. They can survive sulfur dioxide and ozone pollution and even atomic bombs. Some living Gingkos are more than five centuries old. But there are no native Ginkgos living in the wild at all. (See

Photos by MK Metz

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They are also beautiful. The fan shaped leaves start out a light yellow green in spring, turn true green in summer and finish golden yellow in autumn. Glad they did not leave with the dinosaurs.