Welwitschia Mirabilis Plant Lives for 2,000 Years

Welwitschia Mirabilis is a botanical oddity uniquely adapted to its environment which helps it live for a thousand years or more.

Welwitschia Mirabilis is a unique living fossil plant that can live to be 2,000 years old and is found in the wild only in the Namib desert of Angola and Namibia.

Image via Wikipedia

The plant is named for Slovenian botanist Dr. Friedrich Welwitsch who “discovered” the plant in 1859 and reportedly when he first saw a specimen he knelt down next to it and stared in awe.

Image via Wikipedia

The largest recorded Welwitschia Mirabilis plant was almost 6 feet tall and the largest known specimen today is almost 5 feet tall and spread out over 13 feet in diameter. The plant is included on the coat of arms of Namibia.

Image via Wikipedia

A full grown Welwitschia consists of just two leaves, a short, thick, woody trunk base and roots. The two leaves keep growing and growing as the plant ages and never shed. The leaves spread out along the ground and get withered by the wind but also collect morning dew which the plant absorbs to help it survive in the harsh desert climate.

Source (Namib Desert)

Welwitschia Mirabilis have an estimated life span of anywhere between 400 and 1,600 years and some of the biggest plants are thought to be as old as 2,000 years. The older plants are sought after by collectors and are considered endangered in the wild but reportedly a fair number of them still do exist, especially in war-torn Angola where it believed the threat of land mines keeps collectors away. Tree lovers consider the Welwitschia to be a tree that has been driven underground.

Image via Wikipedia

Welwitschia Mirabilis usually needs a very particular type of climate to grow in the wild consisting of a daily fog belt which helps the plant survive the harsh desert climate as it absorbs the moisture from the fog through its two spread out leaves. The plant is rarely found more than 100 miles from the coastline. Interestingly, the more yearly rainfall that falls around the plant the smaller the plant will be. In the driest areas the plant must spread itself out the most to survive.

Along with the long spread out two leaves, the plant has adapted to survive its climate with a corky bark that can survive grass fires (see photos below).

Welwitschia Mirabilis is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants with distinct differences.

Image via Wikipedia (Male Welwitschia)

Image via Wikipedia (Female Welwitschia, note the corked bark)

Due to its uniqueness the plant is somewhat popular especially among succulent growers and enthusiasts even though the plant is not a succulent. Seeds can be obtained from specialty seed dealers and seeds from cultivated sources are far more likely to germinate because the wild seeds are often contaminated with a fungus that will cause them to rot.

Welwitschia Mirabilis is a unique botanical oddity.

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The Mighty Ombu Tree is another unique plant in the World.

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15 Responses to “Welwitschia Mirabilis Plant Lives for 2,000 Years”
  1. Kate Smedley Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 4:03 am

    I’d never heard of it, that’s fascinating that a plant can live that long.


  2. Lostash Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Quite a specimen. I’ve seen a picture of one before, but didn’t realise what it was until now. Great article.


  3. nobert soloria bermosa Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 5:17 am

    amazing plant


  4. Mr Ghaz Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 5:28 am

    Excellent post!!..that was very interesting and informative piece..learn new thing 2day..TQ..a must read article..thanx for sharing this great work


  5. Betty Carew Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Joe this is awesome I didn’t know about this plant. Excellent write and read. Pics are awesome.


  6. Daisy Peasblossom Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Very interesting post.


  7. LANESHA Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 11:13 am

    this was an awesome piece joe…had my 12yr old son read it, he enjoyed it as well


  8. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On May 28, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    This is an eye-opening article, thanks.


  9. Jo Oliver Says...

    On May 29, 2009 at 2:13 am

    I did not know that a plant could live so long. Very interesting and unique plant. :)


  10. papaleng Says...

    On May 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I never heard of this plant and its amazing trait. Great that you share it..


  11. Anne McNew Says...

    On May 31, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    wow


  12. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On May 31, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    What an amazing plant. I didn’t know any living thing had such a long life span.


  13. K Kristie Says...

    On June 1, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Awesome plant!


  14. gfuyfuyh Says...

    On March 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I didn\’t Bother Reading This
    Lool I Can\’t Beilieve I\’waaana Wastiing Mi Time Wuiuch YOu Brovs
    Bye Peak Times Peak Times
    LOLOLOLO Bladrims


  15. agnes Says...

    On August 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    What an amazing plant !!!! The way it spreads its leaves is a rarity and the Almighty God had created them all !!!!!


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