The plant Welwitschia mirabilis gets my vote for the weirdest terrestrial organism. Science fiction has never come up with any Martian to rival this plant. It has a low trunk and two leaves that sprawl on the Namib gravel for the entire life of the plant, which can span many hundreds of years. If this weren't enough, Welwitschia is a gymnosperm related to Mormon Tea (Ephedra) and produces seeds in cones, not from flowers. An individual Welwitschia plant produces either male or female cones, but never both.
All of these photographs were taken in the Namib- Naukluft Park in the western part of central Namibia, which is the easiest place to see them in the wild. This area is close to the southern limit of Welwitschia's distribution, which reaches as far north as southwestern Angola.
Click on a thumbnail for a larger image:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5 6. 7. 8.
9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
9. - 15. Welwitschia
occurs in a variety of habitats in the same general area, including open
flats, rocky canyon walls, shallow drainages, and alluvial fans. In some
areas, they are the most conspicuous element of the vegetation for most of
16. 17. 18. 19.
bug Probergrothius sexpunctatis (I think), an insect that feeds on
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