published in ecosystems
The Welwitschia mirabilis is an endemic plant of the Namibian desert which grows at an extremely slow rate. It is distinguished by only two leaves, that look like leather and grow out of a thick stem, up to three metres long: as these leaves grow, they become fimbriated and are frayed by the desert wind and by the sand. A specimen near Swakopmund is 6 metres in diameter! The Welwitschia has male and female individuals, living in a secluded, almost alien valley (named after them). What is most impressive about the Welwitschia is its age: the oldest specimen is over 1,500 years old.