Peter Del Tredici’s search for the wild gingko

In early October 1989, Peter Del Tredici of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum was high on the slopes of Tian Mu Mountain Nature Reserve in western Zhejiang Province, counting ginkgo trees with two Chinese collaborators. For 1,500 years, visiting pilgrims had journeyed to this sacred mountain, where Buddhist monks in the late thirteenth century built the famous Kaishan Temple, the largest of many picturesque shrines scattered about the steep hillsides. In the cool fall weather, wrote Del Tredici, then 43, “we walked all the paths and trails in the reserve and measured and mapped the locations of all the ginkgos that we could locate. Ginkgo leaves were turning yellow, making it easy to locate the trees even at some distance.” All told, they found “167 spontaneously growing Ginkgos.” In the world of trees and botany, the finding of wild ginkgos was big news.
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Excerpt from Harvard Magazine, November–December 2011. Peter Del Tredici is Adjunct Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the GSD.