Welwitschia is a unique plant that grows in the Namib desert of southern Africa, which is one of the driest and oldest deserts in the world. It belongs to a group of plants called gymnosperms, which produce seeds but not flowers or fruits. It is the only living species in its genus and family.
Welwitschia has only two leaves that grow continuously from the base and split into ribbons over time. The leaves can reach up to 4 meters in length and 2 meters in width. The plant can survive in harsh conditions by absorbing water from fog and dew. It has a deep taproot that can reach up to 3 meters underground and a shallow root system that spreads horizontally.
Welwitschia can live for more than 2000 years and is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Some specimens are estimated to be over 3000 years old. Welwitschia is regarded as a living fossil because it retains some primitive features that have been lost or modified in most modern plants.
Welwitschia is named after Friedrich Welwitsch, an Austrian botanist who discovered the plant in 1859. He was so astonished by its appearance that he reportedly knelt down and stared at it for half an hour. Welwitschia is also known by various common names, such as tree tumbo, onion of the desert, and kharos. Some of these names reflect the plant’s shape, smell, or use by local people.
Welwitschia is a rare and endangered plant that faces threats from habitat loss, climate change, overgrazing, and illegal harvesting. It is protected by law in both Angola and Namibia, where it is considered a national symbol.
“Welwitschia is a remarkable example of how life can persist in extreme conditions. It is also a reminder of the diversity and richness of our planet’s flora. We should do everything we can to conserve this living fossil for future generations,” said Dr. Crane.
– Welwitschia – Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 23 September 2023
– Welwitschia mirabilis: A Living Fossil that’s worthy of all our admiration, ZME Science, 28 April 2023
– Facts About Welwitschia – Fact Bud, Fact Bud, 20 January 2023
– Miracle plants in the Namib desert – DW, DW, 11 February 2023