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The Ginkgo tree is the only living representative of the order Ginkgoales, with its earliest leaf fossils dating back to 270 million years ago in the permian period, so in the era of the dinosaurs (Jurassic 200 million years ago) it already existed.
Fossil leaves and vegetative organs show that at that time there were several species.
During the Middle Jurassic there was a great increase in species with a maximum diversity during the Cretaceous period (145 million years ago) in areas now known as Asia, Europe and North America.
It was common and widespread for a long time. Due to geological cataclysms only three species were left in the Tertiary (65 million years ago).
The extinction of the dinosaurs as potential seed dispersers of the large seeds may also have influenced this decline, which is in line with the fossil records.
About 7 million years ago the Ginkgo disappeared from the fossil records of North America. It was gone from Europe by about 2.5 million years ago.
The fossil findings show that the Ginkgo survived under moist and moderately warm climates since the Mesozoic era.
Scientists thought that it had become extinct, but in 1691 the German Engelbert Kaempfer discovered the Ginkgo in Japan.
The Ginkgos had survived in China and there they were mainly found in monestaries in the mountains and in palace and temple gardens, where Buddhist monks cultivated the tree from about 1100 AD for its many good qualities.