Why is the Welwitschia Mirabilis special?
The Welwitschia Mirabilis is the tallest flowering plant in the world and it is estimated that some of these plants can live as long as a thousand years. This plant also has the longest leaves in the world with some leaves growing up to ten feet long and one inch wide.
Welwitschia is a member of the family Aroideae. It has a unique growth form, where its leaves grow out at right angles to the stems and then turn up towards the ends. They are also covered with white scales, giving it an appearance of being frosted. The Welwitschia Mirabilis has two types of leaves:
Radial-leaves which are found in pairs around the stem’s circumference and are upright in nature.
Axillary-leaves which are found growing from the point where the leaf turns up towards it’s end and are completely opposite in nature.
Each of the Welwitschia Mirabilis’ leaves has a pair of cotyledons which remain at the base of the leaf until they grow larger and become permanent leaves. To some people, this plant is known as “the cactus without any spines”.
How do you care for Welwitschia Mirabilis?
Welwitschia Mirabilis is not hard to care for. They thrive under a wide range of environmental conditions like;
The amount of light that Welwitschia Mirabilis can withstand varies with their growth stage and time of year. During the growing season, they tolerate full sun. In winter, however, as well as during summer dormancy, they should be given light shade or partial shade conditions.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is best grown outdoors and should be given plenty of room to grow. They can be grown in a half-shaded area or in a large container.
Welwitschia Mirabilis can be grown in a wide range of soils. It prefers well-drained, sandy soil that is high in organic matter. If you are growing Welwitschia Mirabilis in containers, the soil should be light to coarse textured but well-drained, and it should have a neutral pH level. Welwitschia Mirabilis needs to be watered during the summer and spring months.
Welwitschia Mirabilis can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. During the growing season (late spring to summer), the plants can endure warm conditions, but in winter and early spring, it is best to keep their temperatures at around 70 °F.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is propagated by seeds or offsets. Both methods are common practice with gardeners and should be planted immediately after harvest in order to maximize the chance of survival.
Welwitschia Mirabilis can live for a very long time once it has been planted. Many of the Welwitschia Mirabilis that have been growing for many years have over 1,000 leaves. They are hardy and can survive in many different growing conditions.
Welwitschia Mirabilis will grow well if given a balanced fertilizer in the spring and autumn, or all year round.
Pruning is required for a healthy growing plant. The Welwitschia Mirabilis will flower more if it has some strong growing stems. If the plant is left to grow, the stems will become weak and eventually die off.
What do Welwitschia Mirabilis need to survive?
Welwitschia have a number of adaptations that help them to thrive in the desert. For starters, their leaves contain special structures that allow plants to capture moisture from the dew that develops at night.
They can also undertake CAM photosynthesis, making them the only gymnosperm with this capacity. Additionally, they are exceedingly well adapted to the harsh conditions of their environment. Many Welwitschia Mirabilis have been found to have resistances to different forms of desert pests such as:
The flowers are visited by many species of insects. They eat the pollen and store it for future use which is why we crop artificially every year. If a Welwitschia plant is rotated through the plants, it will be less susceptible to insect attacks. Don’t overdo the crop rotation. Once every two years is sufficient
Too many weeds can choke out the Welwitschia Mirabilis. Keep a clean garden by removing weeds regularly. Although not very common, there still are some pests that attack this plant. Most often, a fungus can attack the Welwitschia Mirabilis.
The fungus grows on the roots and makes them start to rot. Experienced gardeners recommend that you don’t use chemical fertilizers around the Welwitschia Mirabilis, as they can have adverse effects on its growth.
There are a few pests that may affect the plant like aphids and mealy bugs; but they are easily controlled by using insecticides. The best way to deal with the pests is prevent their invasion. That can be done by removing dead leaves and keeping the garden clean.
Many cultivars of Welwitschia Mirabilis are available in the market. Some of them are considered to be the rarest plants in the world.
Welwitschia Mirabilis need warm dry place with plenty of sunlight for optimum growth, avoid cold and humid weather conditions, which will affect its growth drastically.
Check the maturity before planting them in the ground, they should be 2 years old, otherwise they may not survive.
Welwitschia Mirabilis likes sandy soils rich in organic matter and well drained. They can tolerate hot weather conditions but avoid frosts and regular water logging.
In plantations, about 0.5 gram of seeds is sown per square meter, which are covered with sand so that the germination is not affected by soil crusting and light flooding for about a week or so.
How does Welwitschia Mirabilis get water?
We infer that Welwitschia is mostly dependent on precipitation collected in perched horizons. Additional water is acquired through surface fog and dew, as well as potentially from gypsum blocks. This extraordinarily long-lived evergreen is resistant to dehydration in Hyperarid circumstances because to a variety of techniques.
Welwitschia Mirabilis has a unique way of utilizing water. The plant contains two different types of tissues, leaves and tubers. The leaves are always present, but the tubers are constantly being replaced through active growth from the roots. As Welwitschia is an evergreen perennial, it has the ability to survive more than one rainy season in specific areas.
Without rain and any form of external moisture, Welwitschia Mirabilis will die quickly due to its high water requirements.
This plant is a very distinctive plant, in that it is unbranched and grows very slowly. When the plant does die, the vascular tissues that were inside the stems become carbonized, which facilitates its fossilization.
The only part of the Welwitschia Mirabilis that persists once the plant dies is in fact its roots. The process of fossilization can take up many years and requires extremely dry conditions coupled with great depth to prevent water from getting to the roots.
What conditions do Welwitschia Mirabilis live in?
Welwitschia mirabilis grows in isolated villages in the Namib Desert, along a 1,000-kilometer stretch of shoreline stretching from the Kuiseb River in central Namibia to Mossamedes in southern Angola. The plants are rarely found more than 100 to 150 kilometers away from the shore, and their range corresponds to the fog belt.
This plant has a very low tolerance for temperatures above 40 °C, and can survive freezing temperatures at night as low as −5 °C. This means that it cannot grow in places which have high average annual temperatures.
In the Namib Desert, Welwitschia mirabilis can be found growing on gravel plains and dunes with little or no soil. The only thing that it grows on is sand and gravel. Welwitschia Mirabilis live in a very dry region and have adapted to deal with varying temperatures.
The desert climate helps to form the plants’ thick, woody trunk. This allows the plant to cope with the harsh environment because it can store large amounts of water and still be able to survive long periods without water.
They also protect themselves by forming a thick trunk. The trunk helps to protect the plants from extreme temperatures. It also provides protection from animals, like baboons and jackals that may scrape the leaves. This species has a very hardy nature and will survive in even harsh conditions.
The Namib Desert is an area of exceptional environmental conditions which makes it unique due to its unique ecosystems and wildlife.
How does Welwitschia Mirabilis feed?
Both plants produce nectar, and insects pollinate them. It was long thought that the Welwitschia insect, which lives on the plant, was responsible for this, but it appears that they are primarily interested in the sap of the plant, which they suck out, and wasps are more likely to be the pollinators. The Welwitschia relies on. Insects to pollinate it, and they feed on the nectar that it produces.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is a flowering plant, but it generally flowers very rarely. If a Welwitschia Mirabilis does flower, it will produce 300-400 yellowish flowers in the summer months (in January).
There are two main types of seeds that are produced by the Welwitschia mirabilis: wind-dispersed and water-dispersed. Wind-dispersed seeds will be produced in the rainy season and water-dispersed seeds in the dry season.
How do you grow Welwitschia Mirabilis?
Select a well-aerated, warm environment, especially under filtered sunshine. Plants are extremely sensitive to abrupt changes in light intensity. Moving a plant from a shaded location to full sun may cause the leaves to burn, and the plant may never recover and perish.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is an evergreen perennial and will survive for more than one rainy season, unless there is a human interference. Placing the tubers on a bed of about 2 cm of coarse sand and letting them dry for several days before planting them in the ground will help them to withstand waterlogged conditions.
Planting Welwitschia in the garden requires little else beyond being situated in well-drained soil, direct sunlight and room to grow. Welwitschia Mirabilis plants need to be planted with their crowns just above the ground, often in coarse sand so as to prevent them from rotting in contact with water.
One of the most common ways of growing Welwitschia Mirabilis is through the use of seeds. Sow seeds outside in a well-drained sandy loam soil during winter (January), and choose a location where it will experience full sun for at least half of the day.
When Welwitschia Mirabilis is grown in sand, it will not produce tubers, but this is not to be confused with it not being able to survive. There is no reason Welwitschia Mirabilis cannot be grown in the sand as long as there is adequate drainage.
If Welwitschia Mirabilis isn’t hardy enough to withstand winter temperatures, the plant can be kept indoors until springtime.
What is strange about Welwitschia Mirabilis?
The Welwitschia Mirabilis, or “living fossil,” is a species that is known to have lived for around 80 to 90 million years. It has survived through geological periods and geological events which would have otherwise ended the life of any other plant.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is found only in the Namib Desert in southwestern Africa and shows little tolerance for cold winter temperatures, surviving only below −10 °C.
When Welwitschia Mirabilis was first discovered, it was often mischaracterized as a fossil. It has since been found to be the sole inhabitant of the Namib Desert, with the exception of a few small populations living in other dry regions.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is an outlier in the plant kingdom. It produces seeds, but is not a tree. It has a trunk, but it is not a palm or an oak. It grows in the desert, it resists drought and cold and fire, and yet it does not have leaves.
The Welwitschia Mirabilis is the world’s oldest flowering plant. It is the only species of its kind, and it is extremely sensitive. These plants don’t like to be moved around and tend to do better when just left alone.
There are roughly a thousand Welwitschia plants in existence today, but it is believed that up until a few hundred years ago there were actually more than 10,000 plants.
What eats Welwitschia Mirabilis?
To access water, antelopes and rhinos chew the leaves and soft sections of the stem. A damaged plant will normally recover. Welwitschia is also called as “desert onion” because indigenous people consume the plant’s center. Even though the plant does not require any cultivation and grows in the desert, people still use it for food for medicinal purposes.
There are also reports of people eating Welwitschia Mirabilis seeds. The seeds of Welwitschia Mirabilis contain a large amount of starch and they have a sweet flavor. The seeds are able to be eaten as they have a high nutritional value. Gemsboks, giraffes, and kudus feed on the Welwitschia Mirabilis leaves.
Mice, rats, springhares and snakes also eat the leaves and it is believed that they are the reason why a plant dies. When a plant dies all of its nutrients are still present and this attracts different animals which use it as food.
There is not much information about the insect populations that feed on Welwitschia Mirabilis because of its placement in the desert.
How old is the Welwitschia Mirabilis?
Welwitschia are 500-600 years old on average, according to carbon dating, while some bigger examples are considered to be 2000 years old. Their estimated lifetime ranges between 400 and 1500 years. Annual growth happens throughout the summer months. The sexes are distinct, i.e. there are male and female plants.
There is an uncertainty about the time and place where this species was first discovered. There are at least four different theories about this matter. However, it is believed that the Welwitschia Mirabilis was first discovered in 1902 by a German botanist named Rudolf Blaschke during his expedition to Namibia.
Is the Welwitschia Mirabilis indigenous or alien to Namibia?
Welwitschia is a monotypic gymnosperm genus that includes only the remarkable Welwitschia mirabilis, which is limited to Namibia and Angola’s Namib Desert. It is believed that Welwitschia Mirabilis was one of the first mature plants to colonize the world after the last glacial period, and has been considered as a living fossil. The genus Welwitschia Mirabilis is indigenous to Africa.
Welwitschia Mirabilis can live for centuries in the Namib Desert under extreme conditions; cold, drought and little water. Many plant species die during these conditions but Welwitschia Mirabilis can survive in these harsh conditions. The Welwitschia Mirabilis is not just unique for its appearance but also for its ability to survive harsh conditions and grow in the Namib Desert.