The Strangest Plant on Earth

Other planets may have aliens, but we have this...

It's not pretty to look at, but Namibia's plant Welwitschia Mirabilis can truly claim to be one of a kind. There really is nothing like it.

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design
(images credit: Friedrich A. Llohmuller)

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design
(images via)

Welwitschia plant consists of only two leaves and a sturdy stem with roots. That's all! Two leaves continue to grow until they resemble the shaggy mane of some sci-fi alien. The stem thickens, rather than gains in height , and can grow to be almost 2 meters high and 8 meters wide. Their estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years.

Flowers, Plants, Design
(image credit: Botanik-Fotos.de, photo by Karlheinz Knoch)

Flowers, Plants, Design
(image credit: Peter v. Sengbusch)

Flowers, Plants, Design
(image credit: Botanik-Fotos.de)

The sexes are separate, i.e. male plants and female plants.
Male & Female Cones:
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Female plant at beginning of reproductive season. Craterlike apical part of trunk about 17 cm wide. (Drawn by M.Steyn):

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Let's see the close-up of its growing stages. It all starts with two leaves:
(Photos by Karlheinz Knoch)

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design

seeds:
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Flowers, Plants, Design
(images credit: Botanik-Fotos.de, photo by Karlheinz Knoch)

Welwitschia is thought to be a relic from the Jurassic period when such plants (called "gymnosperms") dominated the world's flora. Its ancestor got trapped in an arid environment, and all its close relatives long since disappeared.

The plant is said to be very tasty either raw or baked in hot ashes, and this is how it got its other name, onyanga, which means onion of the desert.
Also some like to wear its unique shape as a jewelry:

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Namibia's Desert is home to other strange growths

French photographer Christophe Courteau captures the esoteric beauty of the desert and its sparse inhabitants:

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design

Flowers, Plants, Design

Desert Edelweis:
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Sources and further reading: Platz Africa, Peter v. Sengbusch
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