I found the article on Welwitschia enthralling–it made me want to set off for the Namibian desert straightaway! The author mentions that a local name for the plant is “long-haired thing,” but an even more evocative and picturesque one is the Afrikaans tweeblarkanniedood (two-leaf-cannot-die). Darwin was fascinated when he learned of Welwitschia and its extraordinary mixture of advanced and primitive characteristics and called it “the vegetable Ornithorhynchus,” the platypus of the plant world.
New York, N.Y.
In your article on Welwitschia mirabilis, you state that “botanists have classified it with conifers.” On the contrary, botanists classify it in the phylum Gnetophyta, along with Gnetum and Ephedra, rather than in the phylum Coniferophyta. F.M. Sturtevant
Yes, the caption for the cover picture could have been read as if someone had stuck Welwitschia in the midst of the phylum of conifers. The text of the story itself, however, was clearer in dealing with classification at a much broader level, placing “the species with the gymnosperms, the broad group that includes conifers. . . .” Michael Frolich, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says genetic analysis shows that the living gymnosperms, including Welwitschias, represent one lineage.–S. Milius