127. Welwitschia

Welwitschia is a rare and unusual desert plant. It is sometimes called a living fossil because some individual plants are thought to be over 1,000 years old.

Found in the Namib Desert along the Atlantic coast of Namibia in southern Africa, this ancient species is related to early seed plants called gymnosperms.

Welwitschia grows a single pair of large, evergreen leaves over its lifespan and absorbs most of its moisture from rainwater held in the soil, fog, and dew. 

Supported by long-term scientific studies and conservation efforts, Welwitschia continues to grow wild in the Namib Desert. The U.S. Botanic Garden propagates new plants by seed and has several plants that are rotated into this exhibit.