Bizarre living fossil only grows in a small chunk of the Namib Desert


Stretching through Angola and Namibia on the southwest coast of Africa, the Namib Desert gets less than a half inch of rain per year. It's a completely barren landscape, deathly hot and mostly devoid of life, save a little flora and fauna including a bizarre plant that can live for centuries in the arid Namib.

Known as the tweeblaarkanniedood (two-leaf-cannot-die) in Afrikaans, the easier-pronounced word for the plant is Welwitschia, named for the Austrian scientist who disovered it in the mid-19th century. Although it almost looks dead, piled in a heap on the desert sand, Welwitschia is a powerfully-evolved survivor. Able to intake moisture from fog over the Namib, it can live for hundreds of years, and some of the oldest known Welwitschia are 2000 years old. 

Apparently related to the conifers, welwitschia grow as separate male and female plants.

Considered by many to be a living fossil, the strange plants are coveted, and as such are growing endangered. They are protected only by their position deep in the Namib desert, which is difficult to traverse.

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