This image was taken near the Parque Nacional do Iona in the Namibe area of Southern Angola. There are many of these plants in this area but few of this size. My friend Henk is not included because he is so handsome but rather because he is tall and his presence illustrates how massive this specimen was.
The Welwitschia mirabilis is a most unusual plant, once termed "the platypus of the plant kingdom" by Charles Darwin". They are found in arid regions of Africa in Namibia and Angola and scientists believe those found in each of these countries to be seperate sub-species.
This plant was first discovered and identified by Frederic Welwitsch in 1860. I find it most fascinating because it is has only two leaves that grow throughout its life which can be from 400 to 1500 years. The leaves are leathery and strap-like and become torn and twisted with time. Mature plants consist of a very deep tap root, a short swollen hollowed out stem. Since rainfall is negligible the plant obtains water through the leaves from the frequent coastal fogs. The plant is dioecious (separate male and female plants) and while it is a gymnosperm (cone bearing) it is a unique species in the plant family called Welwitschiaceae.
The image is included here not to show photographic skills but to show what is out there in nature in countries most people know little about. It is now possible to visit parts of Angola in safety and many lodges are being developed in great nature areas.
The original image was recorded on Fuji Velvia slide film and scanned to digital. I have cropped it a bit and tried to correct the colours to the original. The texture is a bit rough but gets the message accross.
I hope you find this interesting and at a later date I will post an image of the beautiful cone flowers on TE.
If you would like more info or to see more images look on the following sites which I used to check my facts -
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choon102 (35) 2005-05-13 7:22
oh my god, i never seen a welwitschia that so big like this!! not a good picture for photography but absolutely a valuable picture for scientific purpose. how's angola anyway?? are you crossing the boarder from namibia?
njmv79 (595) 2006-04-02 4:11
Hi Rob, just like Palanca Negra Gigante, Welwitschia mirabilis is an Angolan icon if we could say so, nice shot, thank you.