The Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba; '銀杏' in Chinese), frequently misspelled as "Gingko", and also known as the Maidenhair Tree, is a unique tree with no close living relatives. It is classified in its own division, the Ginkgophyta, comprising the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only extant species within this group. It is one of the best known examples of a living fossil. Ginkgoales are not known in the fossil record after the Pliocene,Template:Verify source making Ginkgo biloba a living fossil.
For centuries it was thought to be extinct in the wild, but is now known to grow in at least two small areas in Zhejiang province in eastern China, in the Tian Mu Shan Reserve. However, ginkgo trees in these areas may have been tended and preserved by Chinese monks for over 1000 years. Template:Fact Therefore, whether native ginkgo populations still exist is uncertain.
The relationship of Ginkgo to other plant groups remains uncertain. It has been placed loosely in the divisions Spermatophyta and Pinophyta, but no consensus has been reached. Since Ginkgo seeds are not protected by an ovary wall, it can morphologically be considered a gymnosperm. The apricot-like structures produced by female ginkgo trees are technically not fruits, but are the seeds having a shell that consists of a soft and fleshy section (the sarcotesta), and a hard section (the sclerotesta).