Monday, October 5, 2015

October's golden gift

Ginkgo leaves drawing by Trudy Smoke
Walking along Riverside Drive, I see piles of the golden fan-like leaves of the Ginkgo biloba. This amazing tree is the only living species in its division Ginkgophyta.  It is a living fossil maybe similar to fossils dating back 270 million years, the oldest tree on earth--our link to the age of the dinosaurs.  Some species are thought to be 2,500 years old.  At least one survived Hiroshima. And now many live healthily in an urban environment--my own upper west side neighborhood for example.The leaves of the ginkgo are like no other—fan-shaped with veins radiating out from two veins at the leaf blade—a process called dichotomous venation. Ginkgos are dioecious, which means there are male and female trees.  Males produce pollen cones and females produce fleshy round apricot-like ovules that when stepped on smell like vomit. As you can see in this 16 second video of the two swimming sperm,, they reproduce through motile sperm, like ferns, mosses, and algae.  But from my drawing perspective, they are golden fans, so different to draw than any other leaf.  The radiant, radiating veins have no center rib vein, no side veins.  I draw with awe.

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