Fossilised ginkgo leaf. Ginkgos were woody, arborescent gymnosperms with characteristic fan- shaped, lobate leaves. They were abundant during the Mesozoic era (225-64 million years ago) in the temperate belt of the northern hemisphere. Today the group is represented by just one surviving species, Ginkgo biloba, the Maidenhair tree, which grows in south-eastern China. Ginkgo bilboa may have only been saved from extinction by the attentions of gardeners in the Far East - it was first seen by a European in Japan in 1690. As the sole survivor of a once great race, G. biloba might well be described as a living fossil.
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