: Drawing of Welwitschia mirabilis by Marietjie
largest known specimen of Welwitschia in the
Iona National Park , Angola; this giant male plant grows
in arid savanna on granitic soil, stand 1.5 m tall with
a circumference of 14 m around the leaf base and is
estimated to be 1 500 years old.
With the family, genus and species all rolled into
one, Welwitschia mirabilis is truly one of
a kind. A rarity among rarities, it is found only in
the Namib Desert, extending from Namibia to Angola.
Throughout the biological world and since the discovery
of this bizarre Namib endemic in 1859, no other single
plant has aroused the curiosity and attention of so
Welwitschia is the national plant of Namibia.
It is a true flagship species of the Namib Desert and
although not the prettiest, it is the most peculiar
and advanced due to its amazing botanically engineered
life form with an incredible capacity to survive the
Namib Desert environment. It is no small wonder that
Welwitschia is one of the most researched desert
plant in the world.
What makes this plant so unique, apart from being highly
adapted to the Namib climate, is that its a remnant
of the past, representing a group of plants which flourished
on earth some 125 million years ago. Welwitschia
is a true living fossil! Welwitschia is estimated
to grow to about 500 to 1500 years old.
Welwitschia attracts botanist and naturalists
from all over the world who come to observe it in its
native habitat. It grows in a rugged, harsh and starkly
beautiful environment that leaves man spellbound!
About the authors :
Ernst van Jaarsveld. Horticulturist and
Botanist with a keen interest in Welwitschia
for a long time, having cultivated and cared for these
plant for the past 36 years at Kirstenbosch National
Botanical Gardens, Cape Town. He has also travelled
widely and studied the plant in its habitat throughout
most of its distribution range. Ernst's interest lies
in plants from arid and semi-arid regions of southern
Africa, especially succulent plants. He holds a PhD
from the University of Pretoria, based on his work on
cliff dwelling succulent plants in southern Africa and
Uschi Pond. Namibian born and raised - the
vast landscapes and open spaces deeply rooted within
her. Ecologist, artist and traveller with a particular
interest in desert and wetland environs. Uschi qualified
in Nature Conservation and Landscape Architecture -
is involved in courtyard-garden design, botanical collections
and preservations, graphic design and art. She has travelled
extensively on the African continent. This book has
crystallised from her passion for botany with graphic
art, photography and a fascination for this peculiar
and unique plant 'Welwitschia'.