The Maidenhair Trees of Priory Park, Warwick

Living fossils

Ginkgo leaves, Priory Park
Image courtesy of Jon Radley

Amongst the varied trees of Priory Park, Warwick, there is a particular species that greatly interests me as someone with a vested interest in our ancient geological past. This is the maidenhair tree, formally known as Ginkgo biloba which is a unique species with no living relatives. At the present day this tree is native to China, but has been cultivated in Europe for several hundred years.

Significantly, the Ginkgo is a perfect example of what is known as a living fossil. Globally, fossils of the characteristically fan-shaped leaves have been found in rocks as old as Permian (roughly 270 million years old); way older than the dinosaurs and a touch older than the Triassic sandstone bedrock on which Priory Park sits. Next time you take a walk down through the park towards the Coventry Road, keep an eye open for a pair of these remarkable relics from our prehistoric past. They’re quite small, but there’s no mistaking the leaves.

More from Warwick