My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Gunn, had a thing for ginkgo trees. And since Mrs. Gunn was the kind of teacher you couldn’t help but love, we all developed an affection for the old, stinky trees.
Almost ten years later in college, my friend – a biology major – taught me more about ginkgos. Like how they’re living fossils (they may be 270 millions years old) and that single trees can live for thousands of years. Ginkgo trees all turn the same brilliant color yellow in the fall because they’re so ancient. While younger trees evolved so that their leaves have more pigments, ginkgos only contain a single yellow pigment that we see when the chlorophyll dies. Ginkos’ fan shape is prehistoric as well. Most plants have veins that diverge and come back together to form complex networks. Not ginkgos; two veins at the base of the leaf split into two over and over in a simple but effective process called “dichotomous venation.”