Golden ginkgo leaves at Xuanwu Lake Park in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
© SIPA Asia/ZUMA Wire/Alam
A tree of many memories
As autumn takes hold in China, a blanket of fan-shaped golden leaves—like this one at Xuanwu Lake Park in Nanjing—becomes a familiar sight. And it's been that way for longer than anyone can remember, thanks to a native tree with a lineage going back eons, the ginkgo.
Even though most medical experts say it's no special boon to the brain, maybe Ginkgo biloba is touted as a memory enhancer for a reason—after all, many Chinese ginkgoes are known to be at least 1,400 years old. The order they belong to, Ginkgoales, is 270 million years old—meaning the sole remaining member species, Ginkgo biloba, survived the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs. Ginkgo biloba originated in China, but has been cultivated all over the world for centuries as a food source, medicinal plant, and splendid symbol of resilience.