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Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot Hardcover – March 19, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This intelligent, literate history is so enticing it will leave you greedy for more."—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review
(Dominique Browning The New York Times Book Review)

“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
(Scott Wing 2012-08-20)

"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
(Peter H. Raven 2012-08-21)

"My favorite Ginkgo is the iconic 'over my dead body' in Hibiya Park in Tokyo. Peter Crane’s book will enchant both experts and newcomers to these splendid plants."—Robert M May, University of Oxford
(Robert M May 2012-10-22)

"Peter Crane provides a compelling and definitive portrait of the Tree That Time Forgot: its ancient lineage, its natural history, and history interwoven with people....an 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
(Thomas E. Lovejoy 2012-10-25)

"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
(Michael McCarthy 2012-10-31)

"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
(Gregory Long 2012-10-31)

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

"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
(Kirk Johnson 2013-01-08)

“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 
(Sandra Knapp Nature)

"Among a clutch of new books, Ginkgo has all the right ingredients. 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
(New Scientist)

"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
(Richard Fortey 2012-10-02)

"You might think you’d have to be a scholarly sort of tree hugger to wrap your mind around GINKGO: The Tree That Time Forgot, by Peter Crane, but this intelligent, literate history is so enticing it will leave you greedy for more."—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review
(Dominique Browning The New York Times Book Review)

“It’s a personable story, as Crane examines the fossil record seeking to trace the plant’s evolution and the tree’s cultural impact.”—The Chicago Tribune
(The Chicago Tribune)

“Readers of this fascinating history will be glad to know there is at least one life-form that owes its survival, not its destruction, to humans.”—Scientific American
(Scientific American)

“Peter Crane’s Ginkgo is a remarkable accomplishment.  I know of no other book on a single tree species that can compare with it for readability and thoroughness.  It is a milestone in the botanical canon and will remain the most authoritative account of this fascinating species for many years to come.”—Edward S. Barnard
(Edward S. Barnard)

"Ginkgo cranei, an extinct species of the family, is named after the author who lived beside the UK’s oldest Ginkgo while he was director of Kew Gardens. This qualification is dwarfed by the depth of Crane’s knowledge and the sparkle of his prose. He also reminds us why conservation matters: 'Letting species go extinct when we have the power to intervene is like letting a library burn just when we are learning how to read'." —Jane Owen, The Financial Times (Jane Owen Financial Times 2013-06-29)

“Peter Crane guides us through every aspect of the tree’s provenance, at the same time using it to weave an enthralling tale of people, history, evolution and conservation. He leaves no stone unturned in his quest to present the story of this remarkable tree . . . Those who read this book are likely to look upon the ginkgo tree with a sense of enchantment . . .”—Dr Graham Godfrey, The Biologist
(Dr Graham Godfrey The Biologist 2013-09-01)

“[T]he appeal of a life form that saw the dinosaurs come and go prevails and makes this book a fascinating . . . read.”—Michael Gross, Chemistry & Industry
(Michael Gross Chemistry and Industry)

"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
(J. C. McElwain Science)

"Highly recommended."—Choice
(Choice)

Ginkgo is a rare work about a tree unlike any other. Written by Peter Crane, a paleobotanist and former head of the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, his passion for the subject makes you want to go out and hug a ginkgo.”—New Scientist (New Scientist 2013-11-30)

A Best Science Book of 2013, New Scientist
(New Scientist)

“Apart from covering all the main aspects of the biology, growth, history and cultivation of Ginkgo, it includes a fascinating account of the study of fossil plants and of the personalities involved . . . This is a delightful book to read, alike to botanists and to anyone with an interest in trees.”—Martyn Rix, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine
(Martyn Rix Curtis’s Botanical Magazine)

Shortlisted for the 2014 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.
(Science, Short List Phi Beta Kappa Award 2014-08-18)

"Encyclopedic in breadth and depth, this 'global biography' of the ginkgo is an elegant account infused with the writer’s sense of wonderment for his subject. Reading it will likely make you seek out the nearest specimen to appreciate it anew."—Key Reporter
(Key Reporter)

Book Description

A renowned botanist recounts the eventful 250-million-year history of the ginkgo tree, its near demise during the ice ages, its surprising reprieve from extinction through human intervention, and its honored place in cities around the globe.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 37519th edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300187513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300187519
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paula on March 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I admit that I bought this book as a gift for my mother and didn't intend to read it myself. As I proceeded to wrap it, however, I began to page through it and soon found myself reading it from cover to cover. Ginkgo is a beautiful tribute to a tree that I now know has a fascinating history and a captivating story. This book will make a great gift for the nature lover on your list, but don't be surprised if you want to keep it for yourself.
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Format: Hardcover
The recent book, Ginkgo, by Peter Crane is an exceptionally well written tale about a tree. Not just any tree, but one of the longest surviving species around. This tale covers the history of its discovery, the people involved, the biology of the tree, and it discusses the trees interaction with man from both the Eastern and Western perspective.

If you have never met a ginkgo, then you are in for a surprise. Just walk down any street in Manhattan and I would bet there are a half a dozen or more around. They are indestructible and live upon the urban exhaust from cars and trucks. They can survive quite well in most temperate environments, just add CO2, water and sunlight. Not too cold and not too hot and they take off.

I have been growing ginkgoes from seed for a couple of decades. Each tree is different and one grows three feet a year. After twenty years it is over sixty feet tall. It gets abundant water sitting on the edge of a daylily garden. Others are slow growers, just a few inches. Yet they all have the distinctive leaf, and in the fall the distinctive golden yellow leaf, and then they all drop on the same day. It is a wonderful orchestrated act of nature.

Crane goes through this tree and uses it to tell many tales. Tales of paleobotany and the paleobotanists. People who look for plants in the rocks from millions of years ago. Then he explores the biology of the ginkgo. It is a plant which has male and female versions, and both are often necessary for reproduction. The seed is coveted as an edible treat whereas the seed covering is quite distasteful.

Also Crane discusses the evolutionary placement amongst on the one hand ferns and on the other hand conifers. Ginkgoes are gymnosperms, naked seeds, unlike what we have in flowering plants.
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Peter Crane's book explains the fascinating history of the ginkgo tree, from evolutionary prehistory to today. But the author uses the ginkgo story as a focus point to explain all aspects of evolution and conservation: the book is not just about ginkgoes. This book helped me understand the crucial role that botanical gardens and arboreta can play in saving a tree species from extinction. It worked with ginkgoes, dawn redwoods, Wollemi pines, and Franklinia bushes. It can work with other woody species as well, including a rare species of shrub that I work with. You can tell from the book that Peter Crane really loves ginkgoes, and when an author loves something, the readers will too.
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No one cannot tell ginkgoes for their unique leaves with conical shape. Ginkgoes stand throughout Japan, in the precincts of temples and shrines, in the schoolyards and in the streets. Many ginkgo trees have their own legends together with our various reminiscence. We admire their yellow color in Autumn. Ginkgo nuts is popular as a classy side dish for sake, is necessaries for Japanese hors d’ oeuvre, chawan-mushi. It becomes a symbol of Tokyo, a university. The tree puts down its roots into our lives. Peter Crane talks about “Ginkgo” from various phases of our relation with them, from a point of botany, archaeology, paleontology and comparative culture. The way he tells a story is full of deep respects to his predecessors.
According to his accounts ginkgoes have been ever present for 200 million years or more. Once widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, they almost disappeared as the climate changed to cool and dry. Extinction of mediating animals might cause bad impact on their survival. Where caught my eyes is ginkgoes were discovered in Japan through trading at Deshima in the late seventeenth century, and were brought into cultivation in Europe and then in America. Ginkgoes were survived in China and evidently spread to Korea and Japan. Crane’s knowledge is wide and profound, he searches the origin of word “Ginkgo” in the chapter titled Naming. He explains the word originated in Japanese “Ginkyo.” People longs for it’s longevity. While the seeds have been widely used in the East, extracts from leaves have got attention almost exclusively in the West. Ginkgo leaf extracts are said to be among the leading prescription medicines in both Germany and France. It is used for symptomatic treatment of deficits in memory, concentration, and certain kinds of depression.
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I was surprised how much I liked "Ginko..."; it's title sucked me in even though, I've no background in gardening or botany but it made we wish I had stayed awake during botany class, back in 1954. I'm planning to start a ginko bonsai project soon; wish me luck.
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The mind's pictures built from Crane's excellent writing obviates the need for any glossy photos. The depth and breadth of information new to me on such a well known tree is surprising. Plant a female and enjoy ginnan, the toasted seeds of the tree, some years hence.
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