Bizarre plant with a partially buried woody stem looking like an inverted elephant foot and up to 1.5 m wide in the wild and a deep tap root. It may be described as a dwarf tree since the flattened stem is a result of the early death of the apical bud and subsequent growth around the rim of the central depression. Leaves two, large, strap-like, growing from 2 grooves at the base of 'foot'. They are the only leaves that the plant produces and may continue to grow outwards from the base for over 100 years; the tips becoming frayed and worn by the rigours of the desert. Old leaves may be up to 3 m long. Plants unisexual the organs cone-like but males with stamens and in the female cones the ovules are still naked though protected by two enveloping scale-like structures. A style-like structure is also present. Seed winged.

A monogeneric family containing a single species that grows in the Namib desery of South West Africa.

Source: Spencer, R. (1995). Welwitschiaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 1, Ferns, conifers & their allies. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Gnetopsida
order     Welwitschiales
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
genus       Welwitschia Hook.f.