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Welwitschia mirabilis (Welwitschia)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Gymnospermae > Coniferophyta (conifers) > Gnetales

Welwitschia mirabilis in the Namib Desert. [photos H. Robertson ]


Gymnosperms are normally tree-like plants but the Welwitschia is remarkable in being a gymnosperm that has developed a prostrate growth form and deep root system apparently to survive desert conditions. It is also interesting in that each plant has only two leaves, which grow continuously. While the leaf is growing from the base, the end is becoming frayed and dried so each leaf is kept to a reasonable length. Carbon dating has revealed that plants can grow to at least 600 years old.

Distribution and habitat

Grows in the extremely arid desert region extending from the Kuiseb River in Namibia to Cape Negro in Angola.

Text by Hamish Robertson

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