Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Platypus among Plants

Welwitschia Plant

Charles Darwin referred to it as "The plant response to platypus". It is, by many plant collectors considered it as the "Holy Grail" of Botanical world.
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. The male structures are like cones or thick upright tassels of flowers, with stamens and sterile pistils, while the female structures are cones similar to those on a pine tree. Their estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years. It can survive up to five years with no rain. 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. Welwitschia mirabilis was discovered by Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch, and discovers on 3 of September 1859. He was convinced he had seen the finest and most majestic creation, as the tropical, southern Africa could offer. The official description was published in the Gardener's Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette 4: 71 in 1862 by Joseph Dalton Hooker (and years after the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 24:7, t. 1-14. 1863).m. The plant was named after the explorers who had himself suggested “tumbo” after local people name of the plant, but because they thought it was so great taxonomic significance, it was named after the discoverer. Species name mirabilis mean “remarkable” in Latin.
Specimens have been found that appear to have ages from 500 to 1000 years, and a few accounts claim ages as old as 1500 to 2000 years for individual specimens collected from deserts of Africa.Plants are either male or female, but never both. Both mature male and female plants produce cone like reproductive structures, called strobili (singular, strobilus), but the male ones have stamens producing pollen and the female ones produce the seeds when fertilized (see thumbnail picture above, right, for female plant, picture above, left, for example of male plant). Interestingly, both types of flowers produce nectar to attract pollinators. The most likely pollinator is a wasp, which carries the pollen to the female structures where fertilization takes place. Welwitschia has been classified as a gymnosperm along with the pines and cycads, but scientists have determined that the vascular tissue (xylem) is typical of that found in the flowering plants, or angiosperms. Plus, the structure of the male flowers is very similar to those on some of the flowering plants, adding to the enigma. At this time scientists recognize only one species of this genus, and perhaps two subspecies or varieties of that species. The plants are protected by law in their native habitat.
Young Plant with two leaves

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