Trees are one of nature’s most valuable creations, providing life, protection, and even shelter to different species for as long as they live, which is usually a very long time.
Most of the trees we know have green leaves, but this 1,400-year-old tree in China sheds stunning golden leaves every fall. This unique tree is called the ginkgo tree, located at the Gu Guanyin Buddhist Temple in Shaanxi Province, China.
Starting in November, during the country’s fall season, the green, fan-shaped leaves of the tree turn a bright yellow color and fall to the ground, creating an incredible golden ocean beneath it.
It’s such a captivating sight to behold that several local monks choose it as a place to meditate. They sit under the tree, soaking up the surreal beauty that surrounds them.
The deciduous tree native to China becomes completely leafless in the heart of winter. When summer comes, the female trees grow unpleasantly-scented yellow fruits that contain two single large seeds.
The ginkgo tree, aka the “maidenhair tree,” is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta.
Extinct Ginkgo species can be found in fossils from more than 270 million years ago, but the ginkgo tree still stands strong, earning it the nickname “living fossil.”
Ginkgos are said to be older than dinosaurs, with evidence proving that they were planted by humans in the earliest times of our history. The Ginkgo is exceptionally resilient to climate change and hasn’t evolved in over 200 million years.
This tree is relatively common in China and can also be found in other parts of Asia. However, this particular Ginkgo tree in the Gu Guanyin Buddhist Temple is the oldest in Asia. Most other Ginkgo trees live for around 50 to 400 years, so this tree is quite remarkable.
Thus, it is seen as a representation of longevity and eternal wellness. Some people attribute the prayers said to Buddha in the temple for the tree’s immortality. But according to the temple’s management, there’s actually a spring running beneath it, which is a major contributor to its health and growth.
The Ginkgo tree is said to have been planted for Emperor Li Shimin, the second imperial ruler of the Tang Dynasty. In traditional Eastern medicine, its leaves are used to treat various illnesses, including dementia, reduced blood circulation, altitude sickness, and sexual dysfunction.
But as gorgeous as this tree is, it has foul-smelling leaves, with the scent growing stronger as they begin to rot. Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop thousands of tourists from flocking to the Zen monastery to see the tree every year.
The temple allows up to 3,000 visitors from all over the globe to see the tree each day. They expect to receive around 60,000 people in the space of 20 days after the tree’s beautiful leaves start to fall.
Tourists will need to reserve their visit on the temple’s official account on WeChat, a messaging platform.
Listen to Michael Dodson, professor of General Biology, Botany, and General Microbiology at the Mississippi University for Women, explain the science behind the Ginkgo tree’s yellow leaves in the fall.
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