Considered a living fossil, the ginkgo tree has no known living relatives and has endured for millions of years with little change. In fact, ginkgo is the oldest surviving species of tree known to exist, with a botanical history spanning more than 200 million years. This demonstration of resilience, combined with its antiquity, has granted the tree many symbolic meanings throughout the world. It has become a symbol of strength, hope and peace for many.
Hope and Peace
For centuries, the ginkgo tree has served as a symbol of hope and peace in its native land of China, and that representation is widely demonstrated in Chinese literature and art. One of the first depictions of the tree in this capacity exisits on a mural in an ancient tomb. Created late in the 5th century A.D., the image uses the ginkgo tree to represent the end of a politically unstable period in China’s history and a movement towards peace. The artists of ancient China often pictured the Buddha’s Dragon Tree as a ginkgo tree, as well, further cementing its place as a historical symbol. The tree continued to appear throughout Chinese culture and was always associated with an optimistic view of the future. Chinese monks ultimately introduced the tree to Japan, where it remains very popular in temples and tea gardens.
The willow tree is featured in many works of literature. In 1853, Hans Christian Andersen wrote “Under the Willow Tree” in which a learned elder willow answers children’s questions.
In Kenneth Grahame’s classic 1908 children’s novel “The Wind In The Willows,” the tree plays a supporting role to a cast of animal characters led by Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, Mr. Badger, Mole and Ratty.
William Shakespeare referred to the willow tree in “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night” and “Othello.”
“Green Willow” is the name of a Japanese ghost story about a young woman with whom a samurai falls in love.
“The Wisdom of The Willow Tree” was a Native American tale.
Perhaps the most famous willow tree in recent literature is the “Whomping Willow” at Hogwarts, the school of magic for wizards attended by Harry Potter and his friends, Hermione and Ron. The tree is key to the story in the series of Harry Potter books written by J.K. Rowling.
- The willow tree is featured in many works of literature.
- In Kenneth Grahame’s classic 1908 children’s novel “The Wind In The Willows,” the tree plays a supporting role to a cast of animal characters led by Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, Mr. Badger, Mole and Ratty.
Celtic beliefs equated the willow tree to a conduit for powerful psychic forces and visions. The Celts also believed that the first human beings were descendants of trees.
Ancient healers first discovered the medicinal properties contained in the leaves and bark of the willow tree, They applied these preparations as remedies for aches, fever and rheumatism among other maladies. Salix alba produces salicylic acid, an ingredient in aspirin.