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Most recent systems place Welwitschia mirabilis in its own family Welwitschiaceae in the gymnosperm order Gnetales.Subsequently, two foliage leaves are produced at the edge of a woody bilobed crown.There are however some very puzzling aspects to the matter; for example, the employment of the CAM metabolism is very slight, which was part of the reason that it took so long to establish its presence at all; it is not understood why this should be.The age of individual plants is difficult to assess, but many plants may be over 1000 years old. Because Welwitschia only produces a single pair of foliage leaves, the plant was thought by some to be neotenic, consisting essentially of a "giant seedling." However, research showed that its anatomy is not consistent with the giant seedling idea.Informal sources commonly refer to the plant as a "living fossil".Welwitschia is named after the Austrian botanist and doctor Friedrich Welwitsch, who was the first European to describe the plant, in 1859 in present-day Angola.The taxonomy of Welwitschia subsequently changed intermittently with the development of new classification systems (see Flowering plants: History of classification), however, its current taxonomic status is essentially the same as Hooker's placement.Most botanists have treated Welwitschia as a distinct monotypic genus in a monotypic family or even order.
At least some of the pollinators are attracted by "nectar" produced on both male and female strobili.
The fungal inoculum infects the growing cones of W.
mirabilis early during their development, and a sharp increase in infection occurs when the pollination drops appear; through those drops the fungal spores may gain access to the interior of the developing seed.
The only branching in the shoot system occurs in the reproductive branches, which bear strobili.
The species is dioecious, with separate male and female plants.