Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Welwitschia mirabilis, Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib

The authors of the new book Welwitschia mirabilis, Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib, Ernst van Jaarsveld & Uschi Pond, provide the following brief description of the extraordinary Welwitschia mirabilis:

"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 many scientists. Welwitschia is the national plant of Namibia, and in Angola the coastal town of Tumboa bears the local name for Welwitschia. Welwitschia 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 plants in the world. This book explains not only where Welwitschia fits into the biotic world, but also its adaptations to a dry desert environment and its place in the Plant Kingdom. What makes this plant so unique, apart from being highly adapted to the Namib climate, is that it is a remnant of the past, representing a group of plants which flourished on earth some 125 million years ago. Welwitschia is thus a true living fossil! Welwitschia is estimated to grow to about 500 -1500 years old. It is striking in its morphology and physiology, placing it in a family of its own, the Welwitschiaceae. Welwitschia attracts botanists and naturalists from all over the world who come to observe it in its native habitat. Welwitschia is a protected plant. It grows in a rugged, harsh and starkly beautiful environment that leaves man spellbound!"

Welwitschia mirabilis
Top Left: A male Welwitschia mirabilis plant, growing near the Flamingo River, Angola.
Middle Left: Male Welwitschia plants carry pollen on male cones.
Top Right: A very old male Welwitschia mirabilis plant, growing in the bed of the ephemeral Messum River, Namibia. The stem of this plant is approximately one metre high.
Bottom Left: Female Welwitschia plants do not flower, but carry their seeds in cones.
Bottom Right: The Welwitschia bug (Probergrothius sexpunctulata) is associated with the Welwitschia. It preys on Welwitschia, however does not seem to have an adverse influence on the plants.

Welwitschia mirabilis, Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib, Ernst van Jaarsveld & Uschi Pond.
Ernst van Jaarsveld is a well-known, highly accomplished horticulturist of international standing. He has published widely and is a renowned specialist on succulents. Uschi Pond is known for her detailed approach to natural science and design, vividly expressed in this biography of a botanical ‘Monarch’.

Book orders may be placed directly with PENROCK PUBLICATIONS. Click here for details.
Tel: +27 (0)79 181 9188
Postal: P O Box 12
Rondebosch 7701
Cape Town
South Africa

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