Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib: Welwitschia mirabilis
Kronenlose Herrscherin der Namib
von Ernst van Jaarsveld & Uschi Pond
284 p. • colour photos • colour & b/w illustrations • 2013 • ISBN 9780620549530 • 260 x 330 mm
With the family, genus and species all rolled into one, Welwitschia mirabilis is truly one of a kind. A rarity among rarities, it is found only in the Namib Desert extending from Namibia to Angola. Throughout the biological world and since the discovery of this bizarre Namib endemic in 1859, no other single plant has aroused the curiosity and attention of so many scientists.
Welwitschia is the national plant of Namibia, and in Angola the coastal town of Tumboa bears the local name for Welwitschia. Welwitschia is a true flagship species of the Namib Desert and although not the prettiest, it is the most peculiar and advanced due to its amazing botanically engineered life form with an incredible capacity to survive the Namib desert environment. It is no small wonder that Welwitschia is one of the most researched desert plants in the world. Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib explains not only where Welwitschia fits into the biotic world, but also its adaptations to a dry desert environment and its place in the Plant Kingdom.
What makes this plant so unique, apart from being highly adapted to the Namib climate, is that it is a remnant of the past, representing a group of plants which flourished on earth some 125 million years ago. Welwitschia is thus a true living fossil. Welwitschia is estimated to grow to about 500 -1500 years old. It is striking in its morphology and physiology, placing it in a family of its own, the Welwitschiaceae.
Welwitschia attracts botanists and naturalists from all over the world who come to observe it in its native habitat. Welwitschia is a protected plant. It grows in a rugged, harsh and starkly beautiful environment that leaves man spellbound.