Your Photojournalism Assignment with the Oldest Tree On Earth
"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." Rabindranath Tagore
"Once you start to recognize gingko trees in the urban landscape, you start to see them everywhere," - Peter Crane
Any time you feel drawn to set out and shoot photographs intentionally, imagine you are a photojournalist on assignment. There is a magic quality that will descend over you as you venture out, equipment on hand, and a subject in mind. You will meet people along the way who become interesting companions to interview for personal stories about your chosen topic.
You will look deeply into the layers of what you venture out to photograph, and hopefully come away from it learning, but also creating beautiful photographs with memories to hold.
For this particular assignment, choose one form or species you love, before entering the trail or green space.
You might choose the Douglas Fir Tree, or anything at all in bloom or changing color in fall.
Right now, there are amazing fields all-around of colorful wildflowers.
You can also choose to seek out interesting shaped rocks or find shapes in the clouds above. Shoot your case study as if you are covering it for a magazine article. Get close. Back up and get it in totality. Get it in the abstract. Take the individual parts of it as well as looking at it from below, above and the most common – at eye level.
Today I chose the Ginkgo Tree (Ginkgo biloba) to cover and learn more about. It is indeed one of the most exciting and unique species of trees on the planet. Botanist Peter Crane describes this wonder as “The Oldest Tree on Earth.”
He states that the oldest fossil record dates back over 200 million years!
Where does the name Ginkgo mean? The Japanese word gin means silver, and Kyo means apricot. It is also beautifully called commonly; a “maidenhair.”
Where did Gingkos originate? Initially, they are from China. (Their national tree is the Ginkgo.) These trees have been around since the Jurassic period. They are so ancient that in the East they are considered living fossils.
What kind of tree is it? It has broad leaves (great for the environment and our health as a human species living near them.) It is also deciduous (drops its leaves at the end of the growing season.)
Where are Ginkgo Trees found? Author Peter Crane states that "They are widespread in the East; you see them all over Seoul and Tokyo. But you also see them all over Manhattan. Once you start to recognize ginkgo trees in the urban landscape, you start to see them everywhere.”
When did Westerners discover them? The botanist Engelbert Kaempfer recorded Ginkgo trees from Japan growing in 1690, a noted first encounter.
How big do they get? As tall as 50-80 feet and as wide as 30-40 feet
How long do ginkgo trees live? They can live as long as 150 years, and some in the East are known to be over 1,000 years old.
How do you grow and care for a Ginkgo tree? They prefer full sun if it’s up North,
and partial if they are in the South. They are a shade as well as an ornamental tree. They are quite easy to maintain, being able to endure road pollution. Their water requirements are average.
When do Ginkgo’s bloom? In spring with green flowers and have gold foliage in the fall.
What are its Medicinal Properties?
When used in China, mainly the seeds are used for medicine. The leaf extraction, "Ginkgo biloba" is a formula used primarily in the west. The East historically uses the seeds, while the west utilizes the leaf extracts. It is a natural alternative medicine used for many ailments, including migraines, cataracts, dementia, high blood pressure, and asthma. (Recent studies are showing some ill effects of using Ginkgo, so consult your physician before considering it.)
What other species are they related to? The rare oddity of the Ginkgo is that it has no known living relatives. It is a unique ancient specimen in this regard.
Why do cities love these trees so much? It turns out they are fantastic around air pollution, living, and thriving like champs. They also interestingly don't attract a lot of birds. It turns out birds don't like these trees' fruits and seeds. They are also bug-resistant, so the birds have nothing to munch on while perching in the branches. Bye Bye birdies when it comes to these trees.
What is the Symbolic Meaning of the Gingko? Due to its 200-million-year-old ancient lineage, the Ginkgo is considered a symbol of longevity, peace, hope, good fortune, and strength.
Are there any downsides to this amazing tree? You may consider choosing the male species if you give this gem a home. The females in 15-20 years put out a stinky smelly fruit. Ew.
Why are Gingkos so "wild"? Every tree found today was planted, and none have been discovered growing in the wild.
Ginkgo Biloba by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749-1832
This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.
Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?
To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?
Goethe gave this poem with the leaves to his love; Marianne von Willemer on 9/27/1815.
It presents the theme of One and Two together.
"Have fun "Wondering" On Assignment Friends!" - Molly Jo
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Ginkgo biloba. (n.d.). Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeGuide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=1092
Ginkgo Tree Facts. (2010, May 13). Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://gardenerdy.com/ginkgo-tree-facts
Goepel, M. (2019, March 27). 20 Surprising Ginkgo Tree Facts to Tantalize Your Brain. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://gardenandhappy.com/ginkgo-tree-facts/
Jonnes, J. (2016, May 17). The Living Dinosaur. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2011/11/the-living-dinosaur. Photograph of ginkgo dinosaur stone by Peter Del Tredici
Kwant, & Von Goethe, J. W. (n.d.). Gingko Poem. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://kwanten.home.xs4all.nl/goethe.htm
Maier, K. (2019, November 19). The Symbolic Meaning of the Ginkgo Tree. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://www.gardenguides.com/13428589-the-symbolic-meaning-of-the-ginkgo-tree.html
Roger Cohn, Pearce, F., Little, J., & McKibben, B. (n.d.). The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on Earth. Retrieved June 01, 2020, from https://e360.yale.edu/features/peter_crane_history_of_ginkgo_earths_oldest_tree