Few things can be found on both the streets of Manhattan and the frozen tundra of the Ice Age. The ginkgo tree is one of them. And next week at the Polly Hill Arboretum, Sir Peter Crane, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale, will be speaking about his new book on the unique and resilient tree, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot.

“What interested me about the ginkgo was the opportunity to write a story that had a strong evolution and paleontology angle,” said Mr. Crane in a recent interview with the Gazette. “But one that was also a history of contemporary use.”

The ginkgo does have significant paleontological roots, with a history stretching back more than 200 million years to the Triassic era, well before the Ice Age and certainly before the dawn of man. Yet the plant has endured since then, even though at one point it went from covering the Earth to being found only in China. But the ginkgo didn’t survive for hundreds of millions of years simply to die out among humans.

“What actually saved it is that people have found it so useful,” explained Mr. Crane. “First as a nut tree in Japan and Korea, and then later as a garden ornamental and biological novelty, and more recently as a resilient and very serviceable street tree.”

Sir Peter Crane loves the ginkgo, and so will you.

The ginkgo certainly is nothing if not resilient. After breaking out of China and moving across the Asian continent into Europe, the tree began to find a home in cities beginning around the early 20th century. It even came to play a cultural role as a symbol of Eastern religions and practices, with one poem by Johann Goethe from the mid-19th century extolling the beauty and eastern symbolism of the plant.

Mr. Crane said that at first he was a bit surprised by the tree’s proliferation in the culture and in the personal lives of those whom he spoke to. He recalled one incident where a couple came up to him after a discussion of the tree and showed him their wedding rings, which were decorated with ginkgo leaves.

“There’s always someone in the audience who seems to have some personal connection to the tree,” said Mr. Crane. “Sometimes it’s a very deep significance for them.”

Despite its widespread appeal, Mr. Crane emphasized that the plant did best when in areas that had cold winters and hot sticky summers, citing areas like Kentucky or Tennessee as ideal climates for the ginkgo, even as it has come to be used from Tokyo to Chicago.

“It’s a plant that doesn’t mind the cold,” he said. “But also can get its feet wet.”

Some of Mr. Crane’s talk will focus on its discovery by Westerners in Asia who realized the potential of a plant that could survive under a variety of circumstances. This led to the more modern uses.

“We even see it showing up in the pharmacy aisle,” said Mr. Crane, in reference to the tree’s medicinal value. “Limited, but there.”

Mr. Crane also noted that despite its recognition within Western culture, the actual biological history of the ginkgo is less well known, and that in turn is part of what he hopes to share with the crowd at the arboretum. For instance, few realize that this tree found on well manicured lawns or along city sidewalks was also providing shade to dinosaurs and Neanderthals, giving a bit more perspective to the curious flora.

“It’s the last surviving lineage of a line of trees that was much more widely distributed and then almost paradoxically nearly went extinct,” said Mr. Crane.

Part of the revival also came from a unique attribute of the ginkgo that is still not widely known: its possible resistance to fire, something that made it highly valuable in crowded urban environments of the late 20th century and in the lawns of any risk-adverse homeowner.

But whether it’s on the avenues of New York or the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, the ginkgo and its resilient attributes will most likely be sticking around for some time.

“It’s clearly a tough tree,” said Mr. Crane.

Mr. Crane’s talk is at Polly Hill Arboretum next Wednesday at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased online for $10 at pollyhillarboretum.org.