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Ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree)

Maidenhair tree has been described as a ‘living fossil’ because it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees older than the dinosaurs.
Autumn leaves of ginkgo biloba

Autumn leaves of Ginkgo biloba at Kew Gardens

Species information

Scientific name: 

Ginkgo biloba L.

Common name: 

maidenhair tree

Conservation status: 

Endangered (EN) according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Broadleaved forests, in moist, deep, sandy soils in full sunlight.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

Ginkgotoxin, a constituent of the seeds, may cause poisoning unless the seeds are thoroughly cooked.


Genus: Ginkgo

About this species

This remarkable tree is known as a 'living fossil', as it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to beyond the time of the dinosaurs. Ginkgo fossils are common in the rocks of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but today Ginkgo biloba is the only member of its genus, which is the only genus in its family, which is the only family in its order, which is the only order in its subclass.

Maidenhair tree remains virtually unchanged today and represents the only living bridge between 'higher' and 'lower' plants (between ferns and conifers). Maidenhair trees can be extremely long-lived, the oldest recorded individual being 3,500 years old.


main info

Courses at Kew

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

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Dimorphotheca nudicaulis seeds

Help Kew's Millennium Seed Bank protect the future of the world's plants by adopting a seed for as little as £25.