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The Tree That Smells Like Poo
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The Tree That Smells Like Poo

Ewww! That Smell!

Some of you may be familiar with the Gingko biloba tree. They can be found in cities around the world where they have been planted for their beauty and spectacular color change. What casual visitors to these cities may not know is the seed pods produce an odor reminiscent of feces when they are stepped on. Yep, in some cities, at some times of year, you have to tread lightly around Gingko" trees and check your shoes before you go inside. What some of you may also not know is Gingko biloba is the oldest known tree species on the planet. Apparently smell isn't everything when it comes to survival.

In this video you can see the oldest Gingko biloba in Europe. Note the shape of its trunk. Have you seen other trees with trunks like this?

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. To what locality can all the living gingko biloba trees be traced?
  2. How did the view of the Gingko tree differ between China and Japan? Explain your answer as fully as you can.
  3. What is unique about the sperm of the "Gingko" tree? What other plants share this trait? When do these plants appear in the fossil record?
  4. How do Gingko trees disperse their seeds so the young trees don't compete with the parent tree?
  5. How does Gingko biloba respond to pollution? Does this response surprise you given the age of the species? Explain why or why not.
  6. Gingko biloba trees come as both male and female trees. Humans have shown a preference for the male tree. What do female trees have that male trees don't? How is this connected to a preference for males? Why do people fear this preference may impact the genetic diversity of the species?

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