The atomic bomb was survived by 170 trees that recovered and survived the 21st century – in Japan, these trees are called Hibakyumoku. Among them, the most impressive are the ginkgo tree trees – six of them – that grew only about one to two kilometers away from the place of the explosion, where there was almost nothing left.
These six Ginkgo biloba trees are still alive, and the oldest of them was planted in 1740 – it was more than 200 years old when the “Little Boy” exploded. The closest to the place of the explosion, only 1130 meters away, was a ginkgo planted in 1850 near the Housenbou temple, which itself was wiped out by a bomb.
At the time of the explosion, the trees received a huge dose of radiation and were covered with a large amount of ash and dust that were still floating in the air for a long time. All the leaves were burned. But a strong root that grows deep underground kept the trees in place, and when spring came, new bright green leaves appeared on the bare canopy. Not only did the trees miraculously survive, but they also recovered with surprising speed – that is why this species, Ginkgo biloba, is also called the “messenger of hope” in Japan.
Ginkgo biloba genome analysis has shown that many genes regulate sophisticated chemical and antibacterial defense mechanisms and protect trees from insects, rot and disease. At the same time, the analysis of old trees, those of more than six centuries, showed that, unlike most living beings, ginkgo is not prone to degenerative diseases, which keeps it strong and healthy even in old age. Because of all this, it is well adapted to life even in polluted cities.
You will easily recognize a strange tree, 20-30 or more meters high, in a park or forest by its specific bright green, uniform color of the canopy and unusual fan-shaped leaves, which suddenly become uniformly bright yellow in autumn. The leaves are triangular with incisions at the top, and small seed embryos are formed on the female plants in the axils of the leaves.
Namely, Ginkgo is a bisexual species – there are male and female trees, and the latter develop seeds that resemble a small apricot, which is why it is called silver apricot in Japan. The seeds are used in the diet, for some traditional dishes, but it is also considered an aphrodisiac. However, the seeds smell unpleasant outside, so male plants are usually planted in parks.
Although various preparations based on the extract of this plant can be found in pharmacies, recent studies show that they do not have a significant impact on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases related to memory, attention and cognitive function, as it is sometimes considered.
Ginkgo is, by the way, a so-called living fossil – a plant that has no living relatives. The various remains of ginkgo that have been found suggest that this deciduous bare-seeded animal lived about 270 million years ago (dinosaurs disappeared about 66 million years ago) and was very widespread.
Charles Darwin stated in his book “On the Origin of Species” that there are species that are associated with some long-extinct plants. These plants have survived to this day and he called them living fossils. In general, the name is used to denote plants and animals that existed in several geological periods, that retained some of the primitive characteristics, and that morphologically and physiologically resembled fossils – such as, for example, crocodiles, which outlived dinosaurs.
Today, ginkgo is considered a sacred tree in Asia and is grown in palace courtyards, and grows wild only in southeastern China, in mountainous areas. In Europe and America, it is grown in parks where it attracts a lot of attention with its unusual appearance. Trees can also be seen in Serbia, and in Belgrade some of the most impressive are in the Manege, then in the Botanical Garden “Jevremovac”, in the arboretum of the Faculty of Forestry, and one of the most beautiful is in the yard of King Petar Karadjordjevic’s house on Senjak.