Ginkgo biloba, or the Maidenhair Tree

Ginkgo biloba, a colored plate by
Philipp Franz von Siebold and
Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini, published
 in Flora Japonica in 1870
Highly regarded for its unusual foliage and brilliant fall color, the Ginkgo biloba, or the Maidenhair Tree, has been aptly described as an "ancient wonder." They disappeared from fossil records some two-and-one-half million years ago in Europe and seven million years ago in America, and were long thought to be extinct in the wild until two small populations were recently located in southwestern China. They were cultivated in China's temple gardens by monks for thousands of years, however, and were eventually brought to Japan about 800 years ago.

Engelbert Kaempfer, a German physician and botanist in the employ of the Dutch East India Company as a ship's surgeon, first observed the Ginkgo in Japan in 1690. His findings were published in Amoenitatum Exoticarum in 1712 and they provided the first extensive description of Japanese flora.

The tree was introduced to Europe at the Botanic Garden in Utrecht, Netherlands, in 1730, and the Kew Gardens in London in 1754, and later to America by William Hamilton who planted several specimens on the grounds of his country estate "The Woodlands" in Philadelphia in 1784. They were first offered for sale by American nurserymen David and Cuthbert Landreth in their 1811 catalogue as Salisburia adiantifolia, or Japanese Maidenhair Tree.

The Ginkgo is the only extant species in its genus. They are large deciduous trees, shedding their leaves each fall, and dioecious with separate male and female individuals. The fleshy pulp of the fruit of the female emits a pungent odor owing to the presence of butyric acid so the male has come to be preferred in most settings. The tree is considered "endangered" because of its propagation by cuttings rather than seeds due to this preference, and this has led to a lack of biodiversity in the species.

Frequently found in historic cemeteries, Riverview Cemetery's extensive inventory of cultivars includes seven Ginkgo biloba — two females and five males — all of which are located on the perimeters of the two circular lawns just inside the gate.

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