Letter: Britain's first ginkgos

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sarah Chesters (Letters, 6 December) remembers correctly that the Chelsea Physic Garden has a female ginkgo. This year we have discovered that another two of our three other ginkgos are also female, having collected the evil- smelling fruit from under them for the first time. The smell is more often likened to dog than cat.

Although our four ginkgos are of no great age, the Physic Garden is claimed to be one of the first where this species was cultivated in this country (it was introduced about 1754). There are many references to the tree that towered above the wall on the north side of the garden, and we have pictures confirming its considerable height. Alas, the tree had to be removed when Royal Hospital Road was widened at the end of the last century.

The toasted kernel of the fruit is highly esteemed by the Japanese, but should perhaps be consumed in moderation. One of the books on Chinese herbs in our library states that large amounts may be toxic. Local friends of the garden claim that tea made from the leaves of the tree is not an aphrodisiac but an aid to memory loss.

Yours faithfully,

RUTH STUNGO

Historical researcher

FIONA CRUMLEY

Head gardener

Chelsea Physic Garden

London, SW3

8 December

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