It is not without reason that the ginkgo tree is called a living fossil. This unique plant has no analogues in the world of flora and its lifespan exceeds 1000 years. Ginkgo survived the ice age and the atomic explosion in Hiroshima. In addition, thousands of medicines for various diseases are manufactured on its basis every year. Today, scientists were able to uncover the secret of ginkgo's health and longevity. According to the results of a publication published in PNAS, the tree produces chemicals that protect it from diseases and drought. And unlike other plants, its genes are not programmed to age.
Ginkgo is found in parks and gardens around the world, but trees in the wild are threatened with extinction because they are being cut down on a large scale. The ginkgo listed in the Red Book comes from China and is the last surviving representative of a long row of old trees.
Protection against stress – the reason for the longevity of ginkgo trees
As scientists from the University of North Texas write in their work, the secret of Ginkgo lies in the fact that with age, the trees show no signs of weakening their ability to defend themselves against stress. As part of the work, researchers from the USA and China examined ginkgo trees between the ages of 15 and 667 years, extracted tree rings and analyzed cells, bark, leaves and seeds. They found that both young and old trees produce protective chemicals to combat the stress caused by pathogens or drought. These include antioxidants, antimicrobials and plant hormones that protect ginkgo from drought and other environmental factors. Genetic studies have shown that genes associated with aging do not turn on automatically at a certain time like other plants.
Despite the fact that the centuries-old tree appears to be dilapidated due to frost damage or lightning strikes, all the internal processes necessary for healthy growth function perfectly. The researchers believe that the results of their work will encourage others to consider what appears to be an important sign of the longevity of ginkgo and other long-lived trees.
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How many long-lived trees in the world?
Today the oldest pine Methusalah (Pinus longaeva) is officially the oldest living tree in the world – its age is estimated to be more than 4800 years.
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The oldest trees on the planet are colonial trees (Pando trees), which have a single root system. The total age of this colony is at least 80,000 years, with the age of each tree not exceeding 130 years. Experts believe that the ability of the trees to live for so long, along with the constant supply of nutrients, light and water, is accompanied by slow growth, adaptation of the cells and relative protection from secondary external influences such as pests, diseases and extreme climatic events.