Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot
Peter Crane
Yale University Press, 2013 ($40)

Readers of this fascinating history will be glad to know there is at least one life-form that owes its survival, not its destruction, to humans. That would be the ginkgo tree, which has remained unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs and which might have died off were it not for human care and cultivation. The tree with the distinctive fan-shaped leaves and sometimes stinky seeds took on a symbolic meaning in many Eastern religions, its nuts became a delicacy, and it has grown into one of the most popular urban street trees because of its resilience. Botanist Crane reminds us that plants, like people, can hide surprising life stories.