The Welwitschia Mirabilis, unique to Namibia and Southern Angola, must be one of the world's strangest plants. The age of individual plants is difficult to assess, but they are very long-lived, living 1000 years or more. Some individuals may be more than 2000 years old. The plant only ever produces two leaves and in this photograph of a female Welwitschia you can see the wind blown tattered remains of them.
The plant caused quite a stir, when first discovered by the Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch in 1859 who 'could do nothing but kneel down and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination'. Specimens from Welwitsch's expedition along with further specimens from Thomas Baines were later sent to Kew, and Joseph Hooker proposed to name the species Welwitschia mirabilis (mirabilis meaning 'wonderful' or 'extraordinary' in Latin) in his honour.
With leaves that capture moisture from sea fogs and long taproots that search out any underground water it is well adapted to the harsh arid environments of the Namib Desert where it is found.
The species is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. Fertilization is carried out by insects — mostly flies and infrequently wasps and bees — that are attracted by "nectar" produced on both male and female plants.