Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot

Dean Crane publishes a new book

Perhaps the world’s most distinctive tree, ginkgo has remained stubbornly unchanged for more than 200 million years. A living link to the age of dinosaurs, ginkgo is beloved for the elegance of its leaves, prized for its edible nuts, and revered for its longevity.

In Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, published by Yale University Press, renowned botanist Peter Crane explores the history of the ginkgo from its mysterious origin through its proliferation, drastic decline, and ultimate resurgence. Crane also highlights the cultural and social significance of the ginkgo: its medicinal and nutritional uses; its power as a source of artistic and religious inspiration; and its importance as one of the world’s most popular street trees.

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This intelligent, literate history is so enticing it will leave you greedy for more.
— The New York Times

Reviews and Feature Stories

Ginkgo will inspire you to know and care for the organisms with which we share this planet in a new way.
— Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science
"After reading this captivating book, you will never simply just look at a tree of any species again, and most certainly not a ginkgo, without pondering its cultural importance, how it came to be growing in this place at this time, and its reproductive biology, economic uses, and phylogenetic position." 
J.C. McElwain, Science

“This biography of the ginkgo tree offers a potent mix of science, history, and culture, exploring how plants have changed our lives and our planet. And Peter Crane . . . is the perfect person to tell the tale. . . With its meticulous footnotes, satisfying referencing and gripping narrative, I can see this becoming a commuter’s favorite for scientists and general readers alike. . . Ginkgo will inspire you to know and care for the organisms with which we share this planet in a new way.”
Sandra Knapp, Nature

"Readers of this fascinating history will be glad to survival, not its destruction, to humans. That would be the ginkgo tree, which has remained unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs and which might have died off were it not for human care and cultivation … Botanist Crane reminds us that plants, like people, can hide surprising life stories."
Scientific American

"It is one of those rare works written by a scholar whose passion for his subject makes you want to go out and hug a ginkgo – or at least seek one out to examine it more closely."

New Scientist 

"The Ginkgo is the elder statesman of the plant world, and Peter Crane’s erudite and fascinating biography is as absorbing as any account of the life of a Churchill or a Lincoln."
Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor, The Independent, London

"A remarkable book about a remarkable tree that came through from the age of the dinosaurs in one corner of China, and has now repopulated parks and gardens all over the world. An important biography of the ultimate survivor."
— Richard Fortey, author of Horseshoe Crabs & Velvet Worms

“This engaging book uses Ginkgo as a point of departure to examine a wide range of topics—the history of botanical exploration in China and Japan, as well as plant anatomy, physiology, evolution, extinction, and conservation. . . . It is both scholarly and accessible.”
— Scott Wing, Smithsonian Institution

"Ginkgo takes a place among the best books on plants that I have had the pleasure of reading. It provides an extremely interesting account of a remarkable plant through space, time, and culture."
— Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden

"My favorite Ginkgo is the iconic 'over my dead body' in Hibiya Park in Tokyo. Peter Crane’sbook will enchant both experts and newcomers to these splendid plants."
— Robert M May, University of Oxford

"Peter Crane provides a compelling and definitive portrait of the Tree That Time Forgot: its ancient lineage, its natural history, and history interwoven with eye-opening page turner about the Ginkgo in particular and trees in general. A triumph of beautifully written scholarship."
— Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

"An erudite blend of biology, cultural history, and tree lore, this poetic rhapsody to one very ancient but familiar tree is an enthralling sweep across deep time and the post-Linnaean world. A delightful read deserving to become a classic of natural history writing."
— Gregory Long, President, The New York Botanical Garden

"The Ginkgo tree is widely known but very few people know much about it. Peter Crane's superb new biography of this fascinating tree taps into science, culture, history, and medicine, using a single plant to tell a host of stories. Finally, Ginkgo gets its due."
— Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

"An entertaining introduction to botanical lore."
— Kirkus Reviews

“a wholly absorbing biography of one of the world’s oldest and most celebrated trees”
Michael McCarthy, Environmental Columnist, The Independent

“This fascinating biography of a single species without any close relatives is a surprisingly lively and absorbing story in the hands of such a learned scholar and world traveler.”
Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden

“If you ever needed to feel inspired about saving the trees, here's your bible: dinosaurs, shipwrecks, plant collectors, supercargos and smart drugs, the ginkgo has it all.”
Emma Townshend, The Independent

“Species come and species go, but the ginkgo is forever. From the time of the dinosaurs to today’s age of genetically engineered vegetables, the humble ginkgo tree has tethered itself to planet Earth and refused to let go. Now, it has an Ivy League ally in Peter Crane, dean of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.”
Jim Shelton, New Haven Register

“It is not just a scholarly monograph but a popular science book, presenting a blend of science, culture and personal experiences. Crane's book is both entertaining and informative. The extensive footnotes and bibliography provide jumping off points to study the Ginkgo in more detail.”
Cor Kwant, The Ginkgo Pages

“Millions of urban dwellers know the ginkgo primarily as a street tree, with elegant, fan-shaped leaves, foul-smelling fruits, and nuts prized for their reputed medicinal properties. But botanist Peter Crane sees the ginkgo as much more — an oddity in nature because it is a single species with no known living relatives; a living fossil that has been essentially unchanged for more than 200 million years; and an inspiring example of how humans can help a species survive.”
Roger Cohn, Executive Editor, Yale Environment 360.

“The biography of Ginkgo is a story of resilience and resurgence. It is a tree that people have saved and is a source of hope for other botanical biographies that are still being written.”
— From The Page 99 Test

2013 Book Tour Dates

  • May 11thArnold Arboretum/Ginkgo Fest
    Boston, Massachusetts
  • June 6thRyerson Woods
    Deerfield, Illinois
  • June 16th: Hurtsville Interpretive Center
    Maquoketa, Iowa
  • July 27th: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Lecture and Book Signing
    Memphis, Tennessee
  • July 28th- August 1stBotanical Society of America
    New Orleans, Lousiana
  • August 1st- August 2stNorth Carolina Arboretum
    Ashville, North Carolina
  • August 8th: Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens
    Boothbay, Maine
  • September 7th: Botanical Research Institute of Texas
    Fort Worth, Texas
  • September 26th: Yale Peabody Museum
    New Haven, Connecticut
  • October 16thNew York Botanical Garden
    Bronx, New York
  • October 21stJapan Society London
    London, UK
  • October 30th: Masters Tea, Timothy Dwight College
  • Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • November 1stNew England Botanical Club


PUBLISHED: April 4, 2013
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.