Welwitschia mirabilis: The world’s toughest plant

Last year, I decided my bathroom needed brightening up with a plant of some kind. But the windowless, sunlight-neglected room didn’t really seem like the best place for a living creature (apart from me during my toileting and showering). After a bit of research, I settled on an orchid. Needless to say, my bathroom now features two dead sticks in a pot.

My fault, really, for not choosing the far hardier Welwitschia mirabilis.

Welwitschia mirabilis

Credit: Thomas Schoch (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Named after the Austrian botanist who discovered it (Friedrich Welwitsch, if you’re wondering), this plant has to be one of the world’s toughest. Not only can a single plant live for up to 2,000 years, they can also survive for up to five years without any rain at all.

Welwitschia mirabilis

Credit: Hans Hillewaert (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Despite their hardiness, they’re not that widespread – they can only be found in the Namib desert in Namibia and Angola, West Africa.

They’re not really that pretty either – each plant consists of roots, a stem and two leaves which just keep growing longer and longer. It looks like some kind of alien foliage – I’m not sure how comfortably it’d match with my IKEAesque bathroom decor.

But the Namibians are so proud of Welwitschia mirabilis that it’s made its way onto their country’s coat of arms, just under the shield.

It even made a guest appearance on Meghan Markle’s wedding veil, of all places, which featured distinctive plants and flowers from each of the Commonwealth countries.

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About Dom Stapleton

Dom Stapleton

As well as being the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik in Iceland is also an incredible place to visit.

We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and spent most days walking around from there. The main thing we noticed (apart from the cold, of course) was that the people are so friendly. At home, trying to cross the road is a nightmare, but in Reykjavik, the cars are literally queuing up to let you across.

When my partner and I went, in January 2013, the sun only started rising at about 10 am, which was a strange experience. And it got dark at about 4 pm each day!

Dom works in our marketing team

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