A Surprise on the Corner of my Street

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Back  in the summer we visited Polesden Lacey, a beautiful house and garden maintained by the National Trust. While there we had a tour of the gardens and our guide pointed out to us a ginkgo biloba tree. I'd never seen one before ~ apparently it's a rare sight in the UK. Check out the unusual shape of the leaves.

This tree, also known as the maidenhair, is thought of by those in the know as a living fossil as it has no living relative trees, and dates back 270 million years. Fascinating!

You've probably heard about gingko as a health supplement. Extracts, in the form of tablets, are thought to enhance brain function and it has been studied as a possible treatment for dementia and Alzheimer's.

Why am I telling you all this, you're probably wondering? Well... here in London the autumn is proving quite stunning this year. A warm October and not too much rain has allowed the trees to keep their leaves for longer and we have a lovely array of yellows, reds and oranges all around.

So, the other day, on my way back home from work I paused to admire a brilliantly coloured tree just down the road from our house. It's growing in the corner of the car park of the block of flats round the corner from us, so doesn't really seem to belong to anyone in particular. Most of its leaves had already fallen, forming a river of gold on the pavement below.

I stopped to take a closer look and immediately recognised the fan-shaped leaves I'd seen back in the summer. Yes, I've been living next door to a gingko tree for all these years! Having learnt what I did about the species at Polesden Lacey, this seemed like kind of a big deal to me so I popped back out the next morning to take some pictures before the leaves disappear.

This experience taught me that however observant you think you are, there's always another surprise waiting for you where and when you least expect it. I must have walked past this tree hundreds and hundreds of times over the years!

What are the trees like in your part of the world at the moment? Any surprises you've not noticed before?


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