Message 1
From: Bob O'Brien

To: AJ Hicks
Date: Tue Aug 15 09:06:56 1995
Subject: Re: Welwitschia

On Mon, 14 Aug 1995 13:37:09 -0700, Aaron Hicks wrote:

Well, I have become thoroughly entranced by this genus, and one question leaps to mind. Hortus 3 claims one species in the genus (W. mirabilis), while Encyclopaedia Brittanica (bastion of knowledge that it is, I would hesitate to call it a tome of taxonomical wisdom) lists two- mirabilis and W. bainesii. Any comment on this from the group? I'd wager it's a matter of opinion as to where one species stops and the other begins, but if there has been some major work on this that I am unaware of, I would certainly like to hear about it! Thanks in advance.

NMTech (95F and sun-ny! in Socorro, NM)
Dept. of Geochemistry

Below are some earlier posts (ca. late 1994/early 1995) on Welwitschia. It's one of my favorite plants, period; also easy to grow, if you don't let it get bone dry (very important). There's only one species - bainesii and mirabilis are synonyms.

The Bornman book to which I refer is a real treasure if you can find one. I wish that some enterprising person would reprint it - I could use a couple of copies as gifts for a couple of other Welwitschiophiles. I really do have to visit the grave of Welwitsch some day (see below).

Message 2

From: Clarke Brunt
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Welwitschia

I'm surprised that we have already had several messages about growing Welwitschia mirabilis. I had come to believe from what I had read that the plant was virtually ungrowable, and that it was to be treated with great awe and wonder whenever mentioned. It it now being found that maybe it is not so difficult after all? I'd certainly like to have a go if I was offered any seed.

Quite a few myths about 'ungrowable' plants are being dispelled. It's a bit like Ariocarpus. The treatment used to be no water, or at most 1 drop or so per year, and the plants responded by looking as animated as rocks. Then someone found that if you water them like any other cactus, they grow, and look green, and flower.

So the moral is - don't always believe what you read. A number of Cactus books are no more than an assemblage of other people's writing, perhaps with a few coloured pictures added. Some things common in books - 'Cacti like a bit of old (alkaline) brick mortar in the soil' (Rubbish) - 'Obregonia denegrii cannot be grafted' (Funny, I grafted mine OK).

My favourite 'Succulent' book? - Gordon Rowley's 'Caudiciform and Pachycaul Plants' - sorry, the title may not be exactly right. It's not a cultivation handbook, but a survey of the world's 'globs' and 'lumps', and so obviously written be someone who knows what he is talking about.

Clarke Brunt

Message 3

From: (Ross Koning)
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Info Quest from the North


The largest collection I have seen is in the Berlin Botanical Gardens. They had both sexes present in the collection and appeared to be keeping track of genotypes. Unfortunately the person responsible for the collection was not available when I was there in 1987. Welwitschia is a gymnosperm with certain traits shared with the angiosperms. I am looking for seeds too, so if you find anything I would sure like to know!

ross koning
biology department
eastern ct state university
willimantic, ct 06226

Hello Everyone,

I am a researcher in the Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. I have been growing and enjoying a wide variety of cacti and succulents since my high school days. I currently have a small but diverse group of plants.

I have two quick questions:

1. Does anyone know what are the cultural requirements to get Hoodia >currori to bloom? I have had it several years and the vegetative growth is >healthy and strong but no flowers.

2. Does anyone know where to get viable seeds of Welwitschia mirabilis? My source of seed in Namibia is out of stock. I admit this is not a cactus or succulent or even a conventional seed plant. But in my opinion is probably one of the most fascinating desert plants around ( a relique from the days when gymnosperms were experimenting on their way to becoming the flowering plants). I currently have 3 plants one of which is 10 years old and has recently borne cones for the first time.

Any Info would be appreciated,
Greg Heck

Ross Koning Internet: Biology Department Phone: (203)-465-5327 Eastern CT State University Fax: (203)-465-5213 Willimantic, CT 06226

Message 4 From: "Brian O'Brien" To: Multiple recipients of list Subject: Welwitschia

For all the Welwitschia fans out there (I've been one since probably early adolescence or whenever I first read about the plant), here are some references, etc.

Two splendid references, both by Chris H. Bornman, Prof. of Botany at the U. of Pretoria:

_Endeavour_ vol. 113, pp.95-99 (1972): "Welwitschia mirabilis: Paradox of the Namib Desert"

_Welwitschia_, C. Struik Publishers, Cape Town & Johannesburg, 1978 Yes, an entire book on Welwitschia, with awesome photos (e.g. Welwitschia Flats, where what appear to be hundreds of plants crouch, stretching out to the horizon). Subtitle is _Paradox of a Parched Paradise_.

Another: _Succulent Flora of Southern Africa_, by Doreen Court, A. A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1981. Has an excellent two-page chapter on Welwitschia, and excellent photos (it's an excellent book overall, both photos and text).

There's also an old CSSA article on cultivation; I don't have the reference at the moment, but will post it later.

Some quotes and facts from the references:

known to Bushmen as N'tumbo (stump) Afrikaans: tweeblaarkamiedood (two-leaves-cannot-die)

"I am convinced that what I have seen is the most beautiful and majestic that tropical South Africa can offer." F. M. J. Welwitsch, Septemeber 3, 1859 (day of his first sighting of the plant)

Bornman: "...he wrote that he was so astonished that he knelt on the hot sand and stared at the plant in bewilderment, thinking that his fantasies has taken flight...."

Court: "...Welwitsch...not the first to do so [find Welwitschia, but did contact Kew, etc.] is the Austrian naturalist-explorer who is immortalised by this remarkable plant, not only by its name, but by its image which is carved on his tombstone in Kensal Green in London."

Court: "Most surprising is the fact that while many xerophytes reduce leaf surface in order to limit water loss through their stomata...this strange plant has truly tremendous leaf surface; one plant is recorded as having a leaf surface area of 55 square meters! Herein lies the clue to the patient survival of Welwitschia. Millions of stomata (pores) amounting to 22,200/ sq. cm are distributed on both upper and lower leaf surfaces, and these _absorb_ water from the morning fog which rolls in from the cold Atlantic. It is this daily `freshening up' process that enables Welwitschia to survive in areas where other vegetation is either scanty or completely absent. In a dry year when the fog is reduced, the leaves start dying and plants are lost."

I'll post more on this later.

Brian O'Brien Department of Chemistry Gustavus Adolphus College Saint Peter, Minnesota 56082 U.S.A.


Brian A. O'Brien, Department of Chemistry, Gustavus Adolphus College Saint Peter, Minnesota 56082 U.S.A. tel. (507)933-7310 fax (507)933-7041

From Wed Aug 16 09:22:09 1995 X-Minuet-Version: Minuet1.0_Beta_17A Reply-To: X-POPMail-Charset: English To: Subject: Welwitschia 3

Date: Wed, 12 Apr 1995 17:21:33 -0700 From: "Sean O'Hara" Subject: Welwitschia mirabilis seed >Date: Wed, 12 Apr 1995 12:37:56 -0700 >From: Jan Vandorpe & Carole Ampe >Subject: Re: Welwitschia mirabilis seed > >Dears, > >I also obtained Welwitschia seed from Silverhill Seeds and they germinate >readily given warmth and moisture. The only problem is the root: the plant >grows a long thin >root of about 10 cm within the first days, so you should provide a large >tall container. A height of 20 cm will do. >The one thing you shouldn't do is transplant it within the first year. DO >NOT TOUCH the root at all or it will die. >You should also water it continuasly since it is not a succulent. >I kept mine in full sun from the first month.

Here at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, and I believe also at the UC Davis greenhouses, I've seen nice specimens of these grown in ceramic pipes (6-8in in diameter and 18-24in long)!

H O R T U L U S A P T U S ('gardens', 'suited to their purpose') Sean A. O'Hara 710 Jean Street, Oakland, CA 94610-1459 (510) 987-0577

Date: Tue, 11 Apr 95 17:55:39 CST From: "Brian Obrien" Subject: Welwitschia references Paul, There was a detailed thread on Welwitschia last year, sometime in the late winter or early spring. I'd recommend getting the list archives for that period - there were several references posted from various pepole (including me, via the same ISI seeds) who grow Welwitschia.



Brian A. O'Brien, Department of Chemistry, Gustavus Adolphus College Saint Peter, Minnesota 56082 U.S.A. tel. (507)933-7310 fax (507)933-7041

Date: Wed, 12 Apr 1995 05:44:10 -0700 From: "David A. Schaeffer" Subject: Welwitschia, aloe mites, and my "BIO"

Well, it's good to finally be on the list. My name is Dave Schaeffer and I'm...I'm...a succulentophile("hi, Dave"). I got my start about seven years ago with a Haworthia retusa fa. geraldii, and like that first member of my collection. my interest has continued to grow. I'm attending Kutztown University, so I have access to the greenhouse(at least till the end of next semester), but my real "babies" are in my room under a homemade light-shelf. Which brings up my first question: Anybody out there ever try germinating Welwitschia under fluorescent lights? I'm going to attempt it, so any input would be useful. Also, I see many of you out there are concerned about aloe mites: tried predatory mites on them? Predatory mites could be the reason one of you said that taking an aloe into a greenhouse got rid of the problem. I have more to say, but I'll save it for later. In closing, good growing to you all, and it's good to be online w'y'all!

Sincerely, David Schaeffer

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 16:41:08 -0700 From: Subject: Welwitschia pot I do use PVC pipe as part of my pots for Welwitschia. I take 4 inch diameter PVC pipe and cut it into 12 inch lengths. To provide a bottom for each of my "pots" I take a 2 liter plastic code bottle and cut off the top and drill holes in the bottom for drainage. I then slip the PVC pipe into coke bottle. The 4 inch diameter PVC fits very snuggly into the coke bottle bottom. To ensure the stability of the "pot", I then set it into a coke bottle carrying case.

Mark Lysne

Date: Tue, 11 Apr 1995 23:38:49 -0700 From: (MR CHUCK HANSON) Subject: Welwitschia -- [ From: Chuck Hanson * EMC.Ver #2.10P ] --

We have grown quite a few Welwitschia seedling here with varying success. If the seed is from cultivated plants , the germination is usually 100%. Field collected seed varies from 50% to 0. No matter where the seed originated, it should be treated with a fungicide, such as Thiram, before sowing. The seed should be sown in a deep pot to prevent any more disturbance to the tap root than is necessary. The tap root is touchy, but repotting can be successfully accomplished with care. If the seed is not fat, it is no good. Good seed will be ovoid in cross-section. In my experience, most field collected seed is no good (no endosperm). Good seed is apparently only rarely produced in habitat. Recruitment years are very far apart for populations of this species. Chuck Hanson Arid Lands Greenhouses

Date: Wed, 12 Apr 1995 19:07:32 -0700 From: Subject: Re: Welwitschia A very knowledgeable friend of mine, an excellent grower of many genera in addition to succulents, potted his Welwitschia in a drainage pipe that was in turn potted in a clay pot - a makeshift *very* deep pot. His young plant appeared to be doing fine - as fine as Welwitschias can do. --Carol Ann

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 14:32:38 -0700 From: "Brian Obrien" Subject: Welwitschia pot? Here's an item which I extracted from the carnivorous plant list, specifically as an idea for a potential Welwitschia pot - a long length of PVC pipe, with perhaps a flange and screen at one end. Has anyone tried this with Welwitschia?

I've repotted Welwitschia seedlings successfully, noting no unusual sensitivity. I was more careful than usual, though - I tried not to break any of the fine roots, and immediately covered the roots with damp mix when the plants were out of the original pots, while setting up the new pots.

One of my plants is doing well in a ca. 8 inch deep polyethylene bottle with the top cut off. The clear or translucent plastic gives one a method for monitoring the moisture of the mix visually (the weight being a complementary method. I know from unfortunate direct experience (inadequately informed plant sitter, which was my fault) that watering of these plants is important - the earlier statements to the effect that they do not behave like succulents is entirely true. Dryness = death. My surviving plants are the ones which were planted in deep pots.

While this thread is going, those who are interested might want to check the archives from spring 1994 - there was another Welwitschia thread then.


Brian A. O'Brien, Department of Chemistry, Gustavus Adolphus College Saint Peter, Minnesota 56082 U.S.A. tel. (507)933-7310 fax (507)933-7041

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 08:48:29 -0700 From: (Jon Hoopingarner) Subject: The use of peat-pots with Welwitschias I've been lurking and following this discussion and these plants sound fascinating and look double-plus weird in the picture book I've got, so they are doubly fit for my tastes.

I've read many messages which mentioned the need to protect the tap root when one does transfer the seedling to bigger pots. Has anyone used these peat-pots with welwitschia seedlings or is there a specific reason not to? Please forgive my naivate (sp?) but I've always bought my plants already well established and will be starting from seed for the first time.

______________________________________________________________________ Jon Hoopingarner E-mail:

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