Thursday, May 22, 2014


On 24 June 2012, Lonesome George -- the last member of his subspecies of giant tortoises of Galapagos island -- died. The last years of his alone-ness attracted quite a bit of news coverage -- see, for example, this and this.

Lonesome George has been on my mind for several days since our 13-year old son has been researching the Galapagos tortoises for his holiday homework project (what a shitty concept!). And along comes this moving piece by Robert Krulwich the lone known survivor of a plant species in Namibia:

So What If It's Ugly? It Just Keeps On Going ...

Far, far, far away is a great place to be — if you want to stay marvelous. There is a plant, called Welwitschia mirabilis (mirabilis being Latin for marvelous), found only one place on Earth. You can get there, as artist/photographer Rachel Sussman did, by driving through the vast emptiness of the Namibian desert, the Namib Naukluft, in Africa.

Welwitschia, when you finally get to see one, sits apart. It's very alone. All its relatives, its cousins, nieces, nephews have died away. It is the last remaining plant in its genus, the last in its family, the last in its order. "No other organism on earth can lay such a claim to being 'one of its kind,' " writes biologist Richard Fortey. It comes from a community of plants that thrived more than 200 million years ago. All of them slowly vanished, except for Welwitschia. It has survived by doing very little, very, very slowly — sipping little wafts of dew in the early mornings, otherwise minding its own business, as the big, busy world goes by.