Where To Find Dinosaur Food Growing In London

By Zoe Craig Last edited 83 months ago
Where To Find Dinosaur Food Growing In London

There are plenty of remarkable things hidden in plain sight across London.

One of our particular favourites is the ginkgo tree, a frankly astonishing specimen, the full story of which deserves to be more widely known.

This ginkgo tree in Kew Gardens was planted in 1762. Photo from the Monumental Trees website.

They're unlike any other trees you'll see in the city: neither evergreen conifer or deciduous, the ginkgo is in a category all of its own: Ginkgoaceae.

The ginkgo is ancient. Fossil remains show the ginkgo tree (sometimes called the maidenhair tree) has been around for about 270 million years. You'll sometimes hear the tree described as a 'living fossil'.

That means the distinctive split leaves of these trees were being nibbled by t-rex and friends back in the day.

There's a chance that the healthy properties of the plant's nectar would've helped this mainly meat-eating monster's digestion.

Ginkgo leaves on Rochester Road in London. Photo by Victor Keegan.

Originally from China (where it's regarded as sacred), the ginkgo spread across large areas of Europe, before going on to survive the Ice Age.

These prehistoric marvels are as tough as they come. Indeed, six ginkgos growing around one or two kilometres from the site of the atom bomb explosion in Hiroshima were among the few living things to survive the blast. They were charred, but in time returned to full health. Amazing.

How to spot a ginkgo tree

The ginkgo can look quite delicate as it grows. It has the appearance of a slightly gangly Christmas tree. Another author has described it as 'vaguely witchlike'.

It has very distinctive leaves: their split fan shape is unique among seed plants. The trees are prized for their gorgeous autumn foliage, when the green leaves turn a buttery saffron colour.

Gingko leaves in spring and autumn. Photos from wikicommons.

Where to find ginkgo trees in London

Some of London's ginkgo trees are in obvious places: Kew Gardens has a few, as does the Chelsea Physic Garden.

There's a male (with a female grafted on) ginkgo growing in Kew dating back to 1762, less than 40 years after the first specimens were introduced to Europe from China.

A ginkgo tree at Kew Gardens in autumn. Photo by Jim Linwood.

The Chelsea Physic Garden has around five; planted in about 1900, they're pretty huge (about 45ft) and can be found close to the statue of Sir Hans Sloane in the garden.

Other places you can spot these amazing trees are at the entrance to the Tower of London; on the footpath between the Millennium Bridge and St Paul's; and outside the American Embassy in Mayfair.

Blink-n-you'll-miss-em ginkgo trees outside the Natural History Museum. Photo by ArUK5.

You can also spot them in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Greenwich Park.

Oh yes, and in the garden of the Natural History Museum — rather fitting, given that it's home to many of London's dinosaurs.

Know of any gingko trees in London? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 19 May 2017