by Afsaana Rashid
- Indian-administered Kashmir -
Officials at the Kashmir Department of Agriculture are putting in serious effort to preserve a male Ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has almost vanished from South Asia.
The Ginkgo, South Asia’s oldest tree, is located in Lal Mandi’s Kitchen Garden of the Agriculture Department. The species is believed to be 270 million years old, as old as the dinosaurs, while the tree itself is more than 200 years old and is eight feet. The life span of Ginkgo biloba can be as long as 3000–4000 years or even more.
• Fida Ali Alamgeer, the Floriculture Development Extension Officer, claims that the Ginkgo is alive and growing, though some experts in the field think otherwise. As evidence, he says that projections of the tree contain Parenchymatous cells, which help in its growth. He says the absence of foliage at the apex gives the false impression that tree is dead.
Lal Mandi's Gingko struggles for survival; a section of its bark fell off after poor pruning. Photograph by Afsaana Rashid. •
As the park is located in a low lying area, rain and snow accumulate into a pool of water. Fida says that the Ginkgo grows best in acidic soil, while stagnant water changes the pH value of soil from acidic to alkaline, resulting in slower growth.
Since the stagnant water in the park has retarded the tree’s growth, a two-feet-high mound of earth was formed around the tree. Dense suckers have sprouted on the raised mound, and experts hope to plant them next year under suitable climate conditions.
An official pleading anonymity says that some of the branches have been chopped poorly, leaving the stump vulnerable to diseases and pests. "You can find holes in the tree; it is because the branches have been chopped wrongly. Branches must be axed completely."