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Welwitschia Miribilis

Welwitschia Miribilis
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Plants
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-10-14
Categories: Desert
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM
Exposure: f/8, 1/320 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Travelogue: Namibia
Theme(s): RARE or SIGNIFICANT contributions to TN 4 [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-11-17 7:41
Viewed: 7340
Points: 40
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Today I bring you a shot of a Welwitschia taken deep in the Namib Desert. The light was extremely bright so I concentrated the shot on the centre of the plant.

Welwitschia is a monotypic genus of gymnosperm plant, composed solely of the very distinct Welwitschia mirabilis. It is the only genus of the family Welwitschiaceae, in the order Welwitschiales, in the division Gnetophyta. The plant is considered a living fossil.

The geographic distribution of Welwitschia mirabilis is limited to south-west Africa, specifically, to the Namib desert within the two countries, Namibia and Angola.

Welwitschia grows from a short, thick trunk, with only two leaves that continuously grow from their base, and a long, thick taproot. After germination, the cotyledons grow to 25–35 mm in length, and are followed shortly afterwards by the appearance of two permanent leaves. These leaves are produced opposite of the cotyledons, and continue to grow throughout the entire life of the plant. They eventually grow to a length of 2–4 m and usually become split into several strap-shaped sections, thus sometimes disguising the origin from only two leaves. After these appear, two cotyledonary buds appear; in these, the growing tip dies, causing elongation of the buds. Growth continues sideways, which forms the obconical growth of the stem. The species is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. Fertilization, that is, the transfer of the pollen from the male to the female strobili, is apparently carried out by insects that are attracted by "nectar" produced on both male and female strobili.

The age of the plants is difficult to assess, but it is believed that they are very long-lived, possibly living 1000 years or more. Some individuals may be more than 2000 years old.

The plant is thought to absorb water through peculiar structures on its leaves, harvesting moisture originating from dew that forms during the night. As a further adaptation to the arid conditions and hot daytime temperatures in its environment, and as the only gymnosperm species known to do so, W. mirabilis uses the crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) pathway for carbon fixation in photosynthesis. Named after the Slovenian botanist Dr. Friedrich Welwitsch who discovered it in 1860, it is generally considered to be one of the oddest plants in existence. Although considered endangered due to its very slow growth and despite the fact that older plants are often sought by collectors, a fair number of plants exist in the wild. The plants living in Angola are generally considered to be better protected than the plants in Namibia, owing to the relatively high concentration of landmines in Angola, which keep collectors away.

Evelynn, oanaotilia, lovenature, matatur, eqshannon, Dis. Ac., siggi, jaycee, boreocypriensis, Nephrotome2, NinaM, crs, uleko has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Well that is the first positive thing I've read about landmines!!!

1000-2000 years old! That is amazing. These is a very interesting post, James and a very sharp image. I like the other plants going into the distance. I think I'd have to see this plant in person to fully understand the two leaf structure.

Evelynn : )

Hy James
Woow!! W. mirabilis. I know that is an amazing plant, I learn in faculty, This is a kind of living fosil.I am glad to see this rare plant here, on TN. The picture is very sharp.
TFS and regards

Hi James
This is a very unique plant. Your notes are also interesting.

I think focusing in on the centre of the plant really helped to soften the harsh light. I don't mind the light, as it shows the plant and location as it is, hot and dry. Well shown and documented.
TFS Janice

Hello James,
Difficult name and an extraordinary plant. Bright light and I think it isn't exactly a sunset or sunrise shot. Quite endemic..
Considered a living fossil? Isn't that a contradictio in terminus?
I agree with Evelynn concerning the landmines. However...
Very educational and well done..

A detailed capture of an interesting plant with a strange life history James, and quite interesting to learn that land mines have a positive impact in protecting nature! TFS this fine image my friend.

What genius...how grand is that....I have a couple bull whip seaweeds, and this appeared as a seaweed..living fossil?! wow! What a great contribution James!

Hi James,

nice pov on this plant, you have indeed hard light but you maneged the colours well.
Rare plant and very interesting notes.


  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2008-11-17 9:54]

Hello James,
Thanks for the exact notes. Wonderful view of this plant, the whole overall texture is very interesting.
Best regards Siggi

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-11-17 10:43]

Thanks James for this informative picture and note, very well done even with that harsh light, good work!


  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-11-17 10:49]

Hi James,

Excellent shot of this fascinating plant. Your notes are most informative. I can't believe they can live for over 1,000 years . Just amazing. We are so lucky that you take all of these exciting trips.


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-11-17 11:33]

Hi James. From the small picture i wondered what you had taken this time. I must adnit i had to read your interesting notes to find out how special it is. Its hard to think a plant living that long. When my wife can kill then in a few weeks. Good detail in the strong sun light. TFS.

hi my bro james,
After a weekly break which i underwent a surgical operation, i feel beter today to write something. perfectly composed and focused capture of this interesting plant in a fine composition.
TFS and cheers,


HI James,
Excellent!!!!!! the photo is worth a trip to Nambia. Una espècie molt interessant. Salut.

I had seen these old guys near Swakopsmund. It was impressive to see them. This is a nice documetnation. Well done.
Best wishes,

I heard of these plant before. This is a very interesting one.
What are all the brown things inside: flower? fruits, another plant? Do you know?
Brilliant shot.

  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2008-11-18 10:34]

I am amazed at this plant you make me discover, James, amazing and beautiful. I like the picture and we can tell the brightness, blinding, with which you had to cope to bring it to TN! Thank you,


  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-11-18 19:30]

Hello James, Very interesting shot and with good details. The presentation is very nice and lovely composition. Ganesh

Hello James

They live to 2000 years old and live in the hostile environment of the desert but my wife could still kill it.LOL
A very interesting post with excellent detail and information.


  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-11-24 4:31]

Hello James,
What a fine capture of this interesting desert plant with beautiful green leaves. Excellent note too.
TFS and best wishes, Ulla

I wish i was there to see it, TFS Ori

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