I’m sure many of my legion readers are familiar with the blog Badass of the week
or the more subtly titled F.U. penguin. I would like to introduce the plant of the week.
What a clever name, yes?

This week’s plant could really be a bad ass of the week: Welwitschia mirabilis. Apparently
one of the “common” names for this Welwitschia is tweeblaarkanniedood . I guess I’ll go ahead
and stick with Welwitschia.

Welwitschia is a conifer — like a pine tree. But unlike a pinetree it’s only got two leaves, not
counting the cotyledons (that would be four, but the cotlyedons die so…). Some plant, buddy,
two leaves jeez. But, wait, the leaves never fall off or stop growing. They look like grass leaves
(from your lawn now) on steroids — they keep growing and growing. They often get to be
greater than 4 meters long. And they’re up to a meter wide –pretty freakin’ big.
wellie 1
Wellies only grow in southwest Africa in Namibia and Angola, and apparently are relatively
common in Angola because there are landmines all over the place and that discourages
people from messing with them. Note: perhaps the interior department could take this lesson to
heart. Want to protect Yellowstone? Claymores. Of course, I’m thinking the Buffalo might not
like that.

Wellies are also dioecious. Which, in case you’re curious means that the male naughty bits
and the female naughty bits are on different plants. Kind of like humans, only the naughty bits
pretty much look like cones and it takes insects to introduce the male and female to each other.
wellie 1
It doesn’t rain much in south west Africa, less than 100mm per year. that’s 10cm or 0.1m.
In feet it’s not very much either. Wellies get the water they need from fog. Who needs you rain?
Not Wellies. (been building to that for awhile hey.). Nevertheless they live to more than 1000
years. Wow! So if we make the assumption that humans live to ~100 (max) that means
10 human years is one wellie year. If I remember correctly, there are 7 dog years to a
human year. Wellies live 7000 dog years.
What’s perhaps best of all, is that wellies aren’t too hard to grow and there are some here in the
valley that you can go visit. They are truly weird looking plants. My personal favorite collection
happens to be right next to my work place at the utility pollen research laboratory (UPRL).
A particularly gifted plant Schadchen
that works for the organization which houses the UMRL has managed to cross some Wellies and get them to make babies.
wekkue babies
For the truly plant geeky, it has been asserted that Wellies exhibit crassulacean acid
metabolism. ouch. That’s a particularly way of handling photosynthesis that some desert plants practice —
I don’t wish to bore anybody to tears here. If it’s true, it’s the only conifer or gymnosperm
(naked seed tee hee) that exhibits this, um, tendency. The evidence for this is
contradictory (Winter and Schramm Plant Physiology 1986).
Take home badassery: two leaves that’s it, but lives for 1000 years
and guards itself with landmines.
I should be so lucky.