If you were the first to find this plant growing in the Namibian and Angolian deserts of west Africa you might be highly perplexed. It has only two leaves that grow from its base outwards. These leaves continue to grow throughout its life and we know now that some of the oldest plants are over 2000 years old. But, what may be even more remarkable is that it has no flowers. Instead it has naked seeds. Welwitschias are one of the lone survivors of one of the four lineages of gymnosperms, which today are known asthe Gnetophyta. They're known today as living fossils much like crocodiles and ceolacanths.
In the wild welwitschias are found in the deserts of west Africa in the countries of Namibia and Angola. While they are getting rarer and rarer due to their slow growth and fame by collectors, there are a fair number of these plants still in the wild. There are appartently more in Angola due to the fact that there are more landmines in that country.
There are many welwitschias in botanical gardens as well. In fact, many gardens seek this plant to have as a specimen because of its unique taxonomy. One noteable garden that has them are the domes in Milwaukee.
Welwitschias have several special adaptations that allow them to live in the desert. First, they have unique structures on their leaves, that allow them to harvest moisture from the dew that forms at night. They also have the ability to to perform CAM photosynthesis. They are the only gymnosperm that has this ability.