3 Animals And 3 Plants That Live In The Desert Welwitschia – The Bizarre Native Plant of the African Desert

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Welwitschia – The Bizarre Native Plant of the African Desert

This world is full of strange and wonderful plants and animals. However, the plant I’m about to tell you about is without a doubt one of the strangest you’ve ever heard of. Welwitschia is a remarkable plant with strange traits, an unusual growth cycle, and a life that will outlast yours and even your great-grandchildren’s. Let me introduce you to this wonderful African plant.

Welwitschia mirabilis is native to the deserts of southwestern Africa, particularly in the countries of Namibia and Angola. This exotic plant can be found curled up in the desert sand, its leaves spread out around the thick woody base. A wild welwitschia may have been around for eight, maybe nine hundred years, and it is still growing today.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about welwitschia is its constitution. A full-grown welwitschia looks like a cluster of long, strap-like leaves surrounding a thick woody bowl. In fact, however, the welwitschia has only two true leaves, the only pair that ever grows. As they grow, the leaves elongate, eventually reaching 2-3 meters long. Over time, harsh desert winds whip the plant’s low leaves against the ground hard enough to tear them into individual strands. At first glance these threads may look like separate leaves; indeed people who know that the plant has only two leaves are often confused by this feature. The bowl-shaped wood in the center is the old trunk of the welwitschia, which, although quite short, gradually grows to a large girth relative to the plant.

welwitshcia is famous for its impressive longevity. As I mentioned before, one of these plants can live for centuries. Surprisingly, during its life the leaves of welwitschia grow continuously. This amazing fact has actually earned this plant a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Slowest Growing Plant in the World”.

A young welwitschia starts with a short woody stem from which two small leaves eventually sprout. The same pair of leaves grows for years eventually splitting into the characteristic fibers mentioned above. The plant eventually produces two buds which become stems that produce flowers.

Welwitschia plants are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants, so the flowers are either male or female depending on the plant. These, like the leaves, continue to grow throughout the life of the plant, eventually becoming clusters of nectar-filled flowers. The sweet nectar produced by the flowers attracts the necessary pollinating insect to particular plants. Once pollinated, female plants produce many seeds, but due to special requirements for germination, bacterial contamination, and herbivores, few of these seeds ever germinate or become adults.

Welwitschia is truly an amazing and unique plant. Although mature plants are highly sought after by exotic plant collectors, welwitschia plants are still very prolific in the wild. In addition, many plant owners cultivate domestic varieties of welwitschia plants. Yes, these African natural wonders will be around for many years to come.

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