a

Welwitschia of the Namib desert is truly a bizarre plant, a living fossil

200 miles to the west of the Kalahari

lies an even hotter drier desert the

Namib very few plants indeed can survive

in these parched sands patches of grass

sprouted after a rare shower of rain and

lived for a few weeks but that was over

four years ago and now only the dusty

withered stems are left there is one

plant that grows here though and indeed

nowhere else and one that is very odd

indeed the scientist who first described

this extraordinary plant was an Austrian

called dr. velvet who came to this part

of Africa in the middle of the last

century he discovered many plants in

Africa but this perhaps is his most

famous and the one that bears his name

being called welwitschia there are male

plants and female plants this one is a

female and these are the female

structures these are young ones which

sprouted this year and these are the

fully developed ones from last year in

structure they're very like the cones of

a fir tree the male plant has growths

rather like stamens which produce pollen

so welwitschia seems to be a kind of

link between coniferous trees and true

flowering plants but the oddest thing

about it perhaps ides leaves they grow

from the top of its central trunk and

once more do so extremely slowly so that

this length of leaf would have taken

about 70 years to be produced but if it

hadn't frayed at the edges it would be

about 400 yards long because this

individual plant is thought to be about

1,500 years old

it's these amazing leaves that enable a

plant to collect water in this rain this

country the NAM embolize close to the

western coast of an

a dawn fogs regularly roll in from the

Atlantic as they swirl around the

welwitschia their moisture condenses on

the plants huge leaves some droplets are

absorbed through cracks in the leaves

skin the rest of the water is channeled

down to the ground where it sucked up by

roots just below the surface of the sand