Miracle plants in the Namib Desert of Africa

 

There are miracle plants of the Namib desert have perfected survival in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Welwitschia mirabilis 

 

This plant is really amazing. It has two leaves, a stem, and a  root base. The leaves grow on opposite sides and continue growing never dropping. They tear from the wind and get browned by the sun, looking like individual leaves.

The stem thickens and grows and may reach six feet in height and twenty-four feet in width. Corn like flowers appears at when the plant reaches 20 years. 100 flowers are produced by the female plant, the male produces pollen abundance and the lifespan of the plant can reach an estimated 2000 years.

The plant was named after the medical doctor who discovered it. Friedrich Welwitschia in the year 1860. He intended to give it an Angolan native name ‘Tumboa’, but the plant was named in honor of him.  Mirabilis means wonderful or marvelous in Latin

Described as ‘the platypus of the plant kingdom by Charles Darwin the plant is considered as a living fossil. It masters life in the hot and dry desert where other plants will not survive

The plant is endemic to the Namib desert in Namibia as well as Southern Angola. It is Namibia’s national plant. The rugby team in Namibia carried its name as well.  Mirabilis means marvelous in Latin It is a “living fossil.”

Initially, sightings of the plant are not impressive, especially when they are small. The leaves are a pale green and the plant seems to be dead.

A 1500-year-old giant welwitschia is a popular tourist attraction. There is one  50 kilometers east in  Swakopmund on the coast of the Atlantic ocean.  It is about 1500 years old and almost as tall as a human being. It is fenced to keep away trampling feet from the sensitive root system.

Researchers in the Namib Desert have concluded that the moisture capturing is because of fog. Fog keeps the fine root of the Welwitschia’s fine roots. The Namib desert is characterized by fog.

The formation of the fog is when the humid masses if air meets the cold current of the Benguela and the fog  is blown inland

Welwitschia has two leaves that continue growing at 0.37 mm each day of its life. The patient Plant sits and waits for better conditions. A lesson for us humans indeed,

Welwitschia mirabilis, male plant (on the left) and female plant (on the right)
Male Welwitschia – Left Female Welwitschia – Right

Welwitschia also adjusts the color of leaves. When very hot, there are more red pigments,  that protect the plant from the radiation of the sun. When water is readily available and temperatures drop the leaves chlorophyll, a green pigment that conducts photosynthesis.

The Nara plant

Nara Plant

The  Nara plant (Acanthosicyos horridus). grows exclusively in the Namib desert, The leaves prevent water loss and photosynthesis is conducted through the spines and green stems Moisture is absorbed from surrounding fog,

The plant also absorbs moisture from fog directly through its stems. These plants grow on sand dunes and middle desert.Interestingly, these plants created the dunes.

The Nara plants growing on the ground, accumulate sand that the wind blows in. The lower end of the plant covered in sand dies an provides nutrients to other parts of the plant. The new plant grows above the previous one. The height of the Nara plant accumulates an addition of sand, forming the dune

 This is how it works: Nara plants growing on the ground accumulate sand around them, blown in by the wind. The lower part of the plant, which is covered in sand, eventually dies, providing nutrients for other parts of the plant. New plant parts then grow on top of the old one. The Nara plant gains height as a result, accumulating more sand and forming dunes. The plants reach heights of 3meters

The Nara plant produces tasty desert fruit. Melons that grow as large as ostrich eggs.

The water-rich food is a great food source for animals and people. The native ethnic group, the TopNaar people harvest the melons on a seasonal basis. They eat the fruit and sell the seeds for producing cosmetics for their rich omega oil composition.

The exclusive Namib desert plants like the Nara and Welwitschia sustain their long life by adjusting to the environment.

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