wel·​witsch·​ia wel-ˈwi-chē-ə How to pronounce welwitschia (audio)
variants or less commonly Welwitschia
plural welwitschias also Welwitschias
: a very long-lived gymnosperm plant (Welwitschia mirabilis) of the Namib desert with a short woody stem and two strap-shaped leathery leaves that grow continuously throughout the plant's life
The most extraordinary plant we saw was welwitschia, a botanical curiosity that only grows here. Consisting of a low, tangled leaf-mass, it is not very pretty but has the virtue of longevity: the oldest one is known to be 1,500 years old.Isabel Huggan
Welwitschias are grouped with the pine trees (gymnosperms), but possess many characteristics of angiosperms and are believed to be a link between the two.Gavin W. Maneveldt and Albrecht Von Seydlitz

Word History


borrowed from New Latin Welwitschia, genus name, from Friedrich Welwitsch †1872 Austrian explorer and botanist + New Latin -ia -ia entry 1

Note: The genus was named by the British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), first in a report read to the Linnean Society of London on January 16, 1862, summarized in the Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (issue of January 25, 1862, p. 71). Hooker gave a full botanical description of the plant in a paper read to the society on December 18, 1862, published as "On Welwitschia, a new Genus of Gnetaceæ," Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, vol. 24, part the first (1863), pp. 1-48, plates 1-14. The plant had first been observed by Friedrich Welwitsch near the coast of Angola between Cabo Negro and Moçâmedes. He had suggested as a genus name Tumboa, based on tumbo, what he believed was the "native" designation for the plant, but when questions arose about the local nomenclature, Hooker proposed Welwitschia, after its first European observer.

First Known Use

1863, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of welwitschia was in 1863

Dictionary Entries Near welwitschia

Cite this Entry

“Welwitschia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/welwitschia. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

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