Talk:Welwitschia

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2000 years old[edit]

Does this count as a good ref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa82WNk0mis&feature=sub ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 77.167.176.2 (talk) 17:08, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Proposed rewrite[edit]

I have nominated this article to be the next monthly collaboration of WikiProject Plants. While this article does contain some good information, it lacks appropriate citations and clear writing style. More pictures, text sections, and general organization are needed. If you would like to help out, please vote for the nomination here and feel free to contribute to the page in any way you can. A few general ideas to start:

  • A thorough fact check of the article and addition of appropriate in-line citations.
  • Replacement of "Scientific classification according to different sources" section with a clear and informative Taxonomy section. The current table (as I see it) stands mostly to say that various classification systems are different from one another. It affords very little information regarding the actual taxonomic status of Welwitschia and is unnecessarily large, colorful, and confusing.


  • New sections on:
    • Taxonomy
    • Ecology
    • Range and Habitat
    • etc.

Any other thoughts appreciated! --Columbiabotany (talk) 22:28, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) classification[edit]

This topic is unresolved in the scientific literature. The previously cited paper in this article (Willert et al., 2005, Functional Plant Biology) mis-reports their own data in their abstract and falsely summarizes previous studies as well. Willert et al., 2005 presents no evidence of CAM photosynthesis in W. mirabilis. While some of the first papers published on this topic lightly suggest CAM photosynthesis (Smith & Epstein, 1971 [results not supported by later studies]; Dittrich & Huburt, 1974; Ting & Burke, 1983), others have found no evidence of this (Von Willert et al., 1982; Winter & Schramm, 1986; Willert et al., 2005). Cabbagetreeeater (talk) 04:14, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

External link addition[edit]

I would like to add an external link <http://www.namibia-1on1.com/Namibia-Coastal/Welwitschia-mirabilis-plant.html> Are there any objections? Keith Irwin 15:06, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

"...owing to the relatively high concentration of landmines in Angola, which keep collectors away." LOL!! Desadevil (talk) 14:29, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

The link does not appear to be working, at least on my computer. Columbiabotany (talk) 04:12, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Conservation status[edit]

Maybe add the IUCN conservation status indicator to the taxobox? 87.194.223.183 (talk) 19:40, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

It has not been assessed by the IUCN from what I can tell. Mgiganteus1 (talk) 16:10, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Male vs female plants[edit]

Apropos the recent changes to the legends of some of the photos, I'm somewhat unsure if the current labelling is correct. The "female" flower seems to lack the pistil, and it looks similar to the pollen-bearing anthers of some conifers, like pines, but I'm decidedly no expert on flower morphology in this plant, so perhaps someone knowledgeable can have a closer look. Thanks! Malljaja (talk) 03:03, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

Agreed, it looks like the two images below are labeled female and male respectively thought their cones look to be the same.
female 
Detail of male cone 
I am going to change the captions, since I believe my eyes, untill such a time that an expert on the subject comes along to help us out. payxystaxna (talk) 14:02, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
The left image is the female, the right the male. The cones of both sexes are rather similar, but there are some differences. The female is more squat (especially after pollination) and has large overlapping scales, whereas the male is more elongate, has much smaller scales and visible anthers. The third image in the text is of ripe female cones after the seeds have been dispersed and the scales have been shed. Some remaining scales and infertile seeds can be seen remaining at the tip of the cone. Rainbowwrasse (talk) 15:38, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

Suggestions for improvements to this article[edit]

This is, without a doubt, a very unusual plant. Which leads me to ask the following questions about it:

  1. What are the native Bushman/African names for this plant? Do they have any legends or myths about it?
  2. What is the history of its unique status? That is, how did various scientists (such as Henry Harold Welch Pearson) idnetify its unusual qualities, & how did its taxonomy change or eveolve over the years? (The link to "Flowering plants: History of classification" provides no useful information; at this writing, it is a generalized account of the entire group of flowering plants, with no attention devoted to its exceptional members like W. miaribils.)
  3. A diagram labeling on its unparalleled structure would be helpful. For example, the top of the plant appears to be a woody disk resembling the center of a sunflower or common daisy; does this feature have a specific name?
  4. Is anything known about its ecological role in its environment? For example, does it have competitors or serve as food for any animals? In one of the images on commons, a vine-like plant can be seen growing around the base of a specimen; do the presence of one of these attract or discourage other plant growth? Do these grow in groups or in isolation?

Providing answers (from reliable sources, of course) to as many of these questions as possible in the article would doubtlessly result with a Featured Article. And we can't have too many quality articles. -- llywrch (talk) 18:23, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

"discovered"[edit]

"is named after the Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch who discovered it in 1859."

hmmm, really? nobody living in Namibia had ever seen this plant before 1859? hard to believe. there's got to be a better way to word this that doesn't ignore all the Namibians who surely encountered this plant before Mr. Welwitsch showed up. Murderbike (talk) 04:53, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

Hmmm... he still discovered it. I discovered a great little Italian place just down the road from where I live the other day... Rainbowwrasse (talk) 14:44, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure what point is being made. Discovery in this sense means either describing it according to the requirements and conventions of the biological community, or announcing it usefully in similar circles, or passing it onto a competent botanist for similar functions. If Ugh-Lomi the burper found the plant 400000 BP and demonstrated that it is not good eating, that is very meritorious no doubt, but it does little that we can honour or value at present. There is more to "discovery" than "encountering" the plant. Does tripping over it count? Or if that is not your point, what is? If you feel too badly aggrieved, you can always re-write the statement as "reported" or something, I suppose, but do you think the indigenes most intimately concerned will be particularly gratified, or will they just think that you are as nuts as Welwitsch? JonRichfield (talk) 19:17, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

I edited the introduction and replaced the vague and Eurocentric "discovered" with the more accurate "first classified." Ninestraycats (talk) 16:09, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

I see that you have asserted that he described it. AFAICS he was NOT the describer. Do you have any evidence that it was not Hooker? Unless you have something I shall have to revert your change as pure POV. JonRichfield (talk) 19:40, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

Using the term "discovered" is absurd here! Welwitschia is such a prominent plant growing in open areas that have been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. Next we're going to hear about the discoverer of the sky. The person who pioneered the scientific study of the sky did not "discover" it (as much credit as he deserves for his deeds). And similarly, Welwitschia was not discovered by Welwitsch (even if he was the first one to write about it in sophisticated terms and present his work to committees of European scholars wearing suits and spectacles). If the natives had a name for the plant (and the current article seems to suggest they did), they were certainly aware of its identity. And why wouldn't you go ahead and say that Linnaeus discovered humans, because he was the first one to suggest a formal biological description for the human species. Summa summarum: perhaps "brought it to the attention of science" can be used instead. InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 13:41, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Welcome to the discussion InMemoriamLuangPu. I hope you wouldn't take it too nearly to heart if I were to remark that I think you are mistakenly trying to impose too narrow a usage of the word "discover". If you examine your own customary use of the word I am sure you will discover that you apply it in more senses than the one you approve and that you (at least partly rightly) regarded as inappropriate as used in the article. For example: "I discovered that my nose was bleeding." Or: "he discovered, to his dismay, that English mustard was far stronger than French." These are harmless examples of a very common class of usage and there is nothing wrong with it. My, perhaps outdated, English dictionary gives 11 definitions under the single head word "discover" and I will not trouble you (nor myself) with all of them. However, two of these might give you pause, and possibly afford you some comfort. The fourth item in the list is: "To disclose to knowledge; to make known". I am not certain that I understand the intention of this particular item, because it is marked "archaic". As it stands I don't think it is archaic at all and, if I understand both you and it correctly, it seems to be a fair definition for what you understand by "discover". Feel welcome to correct me on this point.
The eighth item in the list: "To obtain sight or knowledge of for the first time; to find out; to catch sight of, descry." You will notice that this definition was deliberately ambiguous, as appears from the two examples given for that item: "Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood." And "He discovered that he had made a mistake." Observe how radically, even diametrically, different the two senses are. One is the sense you use (correctly in correct context) and the other is the very sense that you decry. For someone to discover something might be interpreted as meaning that the discoverer is the first person ever to obtain that sight or knowledge of that principle or fact, whether universal or personal, or alternatively as meaning that though everyone else apart from my aunt Charlie had always known this thing, the discovery was new to this particular discoverer. Patently the intended sense in our context is the latter. Furthermore, if you stop and think about it I am sure you will agree that the former sense is rare, almost vanishingly rare, in everyday usage. It was rare even in the days of Archimedes.
If on the other hand you feel that one or the other of these usages is illegitimate, or even simply undesirable, then I suspect that you would find the task of amending modern English to be disproportionately unrewarding even if it were feasible. In point of fact, I personally consider your proposal of:"brought it to the attention of science" to be unpractical as well as inelegant for purposes of general use, though I accept that there might be special cases where it were thoroughly justified.
Over. JonRichfield (talk) 17:11, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Your objection on the multiple meanings of the word "discover" in colloquial language is utterly beside the point in a scientific context (which is what matters here). In science, it is very common to "discover" something in the sense of seeing it first, or noticing it first. Large Hadron Collider has just been used to discover the Higgs boson (not in any colloquial sense of personal discovery that you have brough up), and more and more distant galaxies are discovered by astronomers all the time.
If you imply that the sentence is supposed to mean that Welwitsch discovered the plant for himself, mind you, I've also discovered this plant for myself, for I clearly did not know about it when I was born, and I clearly know about it now. And Welwitsch's accomplishment is, of course, not in discovering the plant for himself (which is what the current text states, according to your most recent interpretation), but in initiating its scientific study.
Finally, does it not bother you that multiple editors have independently raised the issue with the current wording? (I had no idea about the multiple preceding attempts to change it when I first edited the text, albeit incorrectly, since Welwitsch did not give the formal botanical description, as you have pointed out.)
Any constructive suggestions on how we can proceed? InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 00:24, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
You fail to make it clear what you mean by: "a scientific context", nor why that is what matters here. If you think that there is something about Welwitschia that means we must speak one language when someone makes an initial and unique discovery and another language when someone else has made other discoveries at other times or places, then please explain and persuade. At present the situation is simply that Welwitsch had discovered plants that he wrote about and supplied to botanists in Europe who also had never before known of the existence of anything of the type. When he had finished doing so, a large number of other biologists and an even larger number of other non-biologists still knew nothing of the plant. Before he had begun doing so a comparatively small number of people who probably were not even interested in such a useless plant (possibly a few hundred thousand alive at that time) had already seen the plant and for them the discovery was no impressive feat, either for Welwitsch or for anyone else, including themselves. In context, botanical, artistic, anthropological, ecological, religious or literary, the word "discover" was exactly the word that would be used for such an event in all the languages that I have any knowledge of, though I admit that they are pitifully few. You also will accept I hope, that when the first hominins to enter their range discovered Welwitschia plants, other animals in the neighbourhood had already discovered them, and yet if any of them bragged of his discovery of this magic plant or what ever it was, none of his associates mocked him because the local antelopes and baboons already had discovered it before him (or her).
If you have discovered a field of science in which such usages of "discover", in the senses and the respective contexts, are not respectable and acceptable, then I should be extremely interested to hear of them. I must however warn you that my interest would be matched not only by my scepticism in case you failed to cite your sources properly, but also by my cynicism regarding the authority of those sources. In short, in terms of English and in logic and in history I think the objection doesn't even make sense never mind embody any merit. It is of course obvious that the same word is used (and remains useful) in several semantic roles, and it is perfectly possible to use it in the sense of a presumably unique initial discovery, but if that is the intention and it is not clear from context, this should be explained explicitly in context. In the sense of a European botanist discovering a species of plant the context makes it instantly plain to any normal reader of English, Afrikaans, Dutch, German, French, and I suspect, the majority of human languages, that his act of discovery does not exclude the possibility that the existence of the plant was stale news to the indigenes. But of course, if you know of any exceptions...?
That multiple editors have raised the issue does indeed bother me; one should have thought that educated people would know better, or at least if they suffered minor moments of mental confusion, as we all do from time to time (or at least all of me do), then at least I should hope that they would be instantly accessible to persuasion concerning the triviality, or even insubstantiality of the concern. One thing that certainly does not bother me for an instant is a currently politically correct obsession with mutilating totally innocuous language usage, totally value-unladen, to avoid imagined, but non-existent, offence to aboriginal communities, learning or sense. Trying to turn back somersaults through hoops formed by one's own logic is as profitless as it is prone to prove injurious. I do hope that that is not a component of anyone's current arguments in the present discussion.
My constructive suggestion on how to proceed is to continue to use the term "discover" in its current, correct, logical, contextually useful role in plain English without quibbles or fuss. If someone has an equally clear, equally useful, equally natural, equally succinct, but more precisely circumscripted term for the sense in which we have been using the word "discover", then by all means tell us. "Find"? "Reveal"? "Rumble"? Each one of these has its shortcomings if you want to be picky; "Welwitsch found Welwitschia", did he? How do you know that some obliging indigene did not show it to him? If you think that chasing such speculations is in any way constructive, then I am afraid that you and I have a difficulty. Cheers for now JonRichfield (talk) 17:32, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
OK, that was a long answer :-)
Well, let me put it this way: many editors have independently found the current wording unappealing, as evident from the editing history of this article. The fact that you prefer to keep it unchanged for whatever esthetic or cultural reasons does not entitle you to revert all the corrective edits.
I have proposed two phrases that can replace "discovered", thereby avoiding the possible misinterpretation that nobody knew about it before Welwitsch: "brought it to the attention of science" and "initiated its scientific study". I grant that there may be more elegant and succinct ways to express it, and you're welcome to suggest some (while avoiding the ambiguities associated with the use of "discovered").
If you adopt a completely uncompromising position and insist on keeping the current wording without any concessions, I think it will be necessary to proceed to a higher level of dispute arbitration, as per Wikipedia guidelines. (Not that I mean it personally in any way...) I do hope, however, that we'll find a mutually (or multilaterally) satisfactory solution without wasting our time on going through Wikipedia arbitration procedures. Cheers! InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 02:52, 4 December 2012 (UTC)
Did you read and consider the "long answer"? All 780-odd words? I didn't notice any substantial response to its substantial points. You appear to be under the impression that I am the lone Apollyon bestriding the road for private and evil purposes, blocking all comers to gratify his personal preferences. Not so, I assure you, but far otherwise. Exactly why you feel that your own arbitrary distaste for a standard innocuous term, centuries old, justifies equally arbitrary blitzing of the word wherever it is used in that sense, I leave to you to excogitate to your own satisfaction; I have my own pursuits and interests. However, I think that if you were to take it to arbitration at this point, you would get a dusty reaction, not least because this matter is not in any way near the level of disagreement or importance that would justify anything of the kind. If you absolutely insist on external opinions, then your most logical immediate recourse would be to a Request For Comments (RFC). Then you can explain to anyone coming to the party why I am evil and I can explain why you are mistaken. If you are correct in characterising those who find the term offensive as "many", then you must be on a winning wicket. Simple, no? Otherwise you might find that some unreasonable persons disagree with you about how flexibly compromising your own attitude seems to be. As for my attitude, I compromise when there is something to compromise about. Correct and efficient use of English, and the responsibility of people using the language (and a lot of other languages) are not good examples. Not even to be purely PC when there is nothing to be PC about. (talk) 19:52, 4 December 2012 (UTC)
Regarding "correctness and efficiency", you have failed to point out what exactly is incorrect or inefficient about replacing "discovered it" with "initiated its scientific study", thereby avoiding the undesirable meanings of "discovered" and making the statement more accurate and precise by adding just 2 words (rather than 780-odd words).
Regarding what you term "political correctness", or, more importantly, cultural bias, it is pretty clear where you stand, having reduced the cognitive abilities of the natives to the functioning of their gastric tract, and having found it more suitable to compare their intellect to "antelopes and baboons" than to Welwitsch's and your own (even if those remarks were purely humorous).
I'll wait one more day before going further with a formal dispute resolution. Perhaps you'll condescend to offering a simpler solution. Thanks. InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 02:20, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
Where I come from, the term condescension has unfriendly overtones, and the friendly ones are not appropriate to the situation. Perhaps you would care to reconsider or, failing that, to particularise? Now, which of the errr... dispute resolution mechanisms did you regard as simpler (or friendlier or more constructive) than RFC? And what would the substance of the dispute be? That I insisted on using a value-free word in its correct and customary sense, in the face of blank refusal to consider anything so concise and unambiguous? Or the imputations of attitudes concerning indigenes and animals? Just wondering; it struck me as curious that you should seize on that idea totally irrelevantly while flatly ignoring the logic of the statements... JonRichfield (talk) 09:42, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
PS: BTW, it occurred to me to go looking where I never would have thought of looking otherwise (so thanks for the impetus) and found Discovery (observation). You might find it an edifying read, and it is fairly short (I didn't write it. All the same, better read it quickly; I disagree with some of its aspects and may undertake some helpful editing soon. If so, that might lead to modest expansion). JonRichfield (talk) 09:34, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
Where I come from, offering an adult person to read 780-odd words of your own writing word-by-word, apparently to educate himself, is considered condescending, and hence unfriendly, as you have correctly pointed out. Mind you, my academic standing is probably not below yours...
Your blunt insistence on keeping the current wording (against the sense of a few editors) and a number of casual remarks you've made in the course of this discussion clearly point to a supremacist bias. Purporting that your preferences are objective and "value-free" is only indicative of how deeply ingrained this bias is.
As to looking for a simpler solution than external dispute resolution, there clearly is one: to find any wording that we both consider acceptable. Note that I do not insist on any particular wording, you do!
Finally, I have to express my appreciation for your erudition, wit and writing skills (and I am 100% sincere saying this!), and I regret that our encounter on Wikipedia has turned out so confrontational rather than constructive! InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 13:24, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
OK. Let's see what we can salvage or manage. Concerning your interpretations expressed in the first two paragraphs, I reject them pretty nearly radically, but that way more pointless friction lies, so let's gloss over them. For the far friendlier latter passages, much thanks, not least for your forebearance. (BTW, I never presumed that your academic standing might be lower than mine. I am not inclined to expose attainments for comparisons, but I should confidently assert that yours would exceed mine. Nor would I presume on the comparison if I suspected that the position were reversed. Who would be impressed were I to do so, anyway?) Very well, so I did a bit of legwork to check on Welwitsch's account; I could not find any reference to how he came across the plant, only where etc. One account in the records of the Linnaean society said that he had "detected" the plant, which sounds terribly modest, but leaves open the question of whether he really had "detected" it if someone else, European or human, had detected it before him. Anyway, they seem to use "detected" almost interchangeably with "discovered", so that is not much help. You will no doubt detect a reminiscent note in the situation attendant on the choice of either word. I don't believe there is such a word that would meet all the objections unreasonably visited on "discover", but please inspect my re-wording in context. I do not undertake to duplicate it in other contexts immediately, if at all. Cheers for now. More urgent calls on my time, such as bed. JonRichfield (talk) 20:10, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
I am glad we've entered a more co-operative phase of the discussion, and I reset the paragraph displacement to zero to mark this point.
Before we proceed, I think we should decide which of the meanings of "discover" we want to keep and refine (and I would agree pretty much to any choice). As I see it, there are two main meanings: 1) original discovery, 2) personal discovery. It is the first meaning (or any implication thereof) that I (and, I believe, other editors acting in a similar vein) were trying to avoid. Therefore, if we aim at correcting the phrase taken in the first meaning, we should replace "discovery" by a more accurate expression specifying what Welwitsch has accomplished with his original science research (I've made some suggestions, and I am open to other versions). If we prefer to keep the sense of personal discovery (i.e. "coming across" the plant), then we should change the wording so that any implication of "original discovery" is removed (or at least substantially weakened).
Incidentally, though "detected a plant" sounds kinda stiff to me, I feel it does largely avoid the problem seen with "discovered". This is because "original discovery" is a well-established and widely used term (that has repercussions on the casual perception of the word "to discover"), but the term "original detection" is much less so. InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 01:23, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
SUGGESTION: "discovered it" → "reported about it"????? InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 05:03, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Oh, I actually notice you've updated the article without mentioning it here. I have no substantial objections to the current version. (Though perhaps stylistically it can be made more neat.) Thanks in any case. InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 07:38, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I should perhaps have expressed it more conspicuously than "...please inspect my re-wording in context...", but I was pretty done up by that time of night. I disagree that "detected" would have added any improvement whatsoever; what is there about "detecting" a plant that predecessors had already detected, that is any better than "discovering" a plant that predecessors had already discovered? Six of one and half a dozen of the other, I reckon. That was why I eventually elected to ignore the topic of discovery or precedence in toto, dealing instead with what the Linnaean society in general and Hooker and Welwitsch undoubtedly did and said, which is in essence what matters. Stylistically you have a point. For one thing, I think that any comment along those lines no longer belongs in the lede, if ever it did. I'll give it some thought. Cheers, JonRichfield (talk) 18:32, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
OK, I have had another bash. You might like to crit. JonRichfield (talk) 20:15, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Oh the new version looks great. Thanks for researching all the details! InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 14:32, 12 December 2012 (UTC)
You're welcome IMLP, thanks for kind remark. JonRichfield (talk) 14:49, 12 December 2012 (UTC)
...and now I am going to plant Welwitschia seeds, which is why I ended up consulting this article in the first place. InMemoriamLuangPu (talk) 15:04, 12 December 2012 (UTC)
Though I have none myself, I love the plant, so I enthusiastically wish you the best of luck with your venture. I am likely to add to the article in a desultory fashion. JonRichfield (talk) 18:55, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

ERW in Angola[edit]

"The plants living in Angola are better protected than the plants in Namibia, owing to the relatively high concentration of land mines in Angola, which keep collectors away."

I am living in Namibe, Angola. It is true that plenty of ERW (Explosive Remnants of War) are spread all over Angola, but mostly in the north. I travel a lot in the Angolan part of Namibe desert, and i have never ran into a land mine or heard about someone who did. There need to be found another reason for that the plants are more protected in Angola than in Namibia, i personally doubt it. Ravid.cohen

Its not very pretty[edit]

Can we use this plant to extend the human life span perhaps? Otherwise, I say lets dig them up and plant Marygolds! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.118.201.68 (talk) 00:49, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Of course it's not pretty you twerp! Pretty is for toys. It is beautiful beyond conception; in particular your conception. Incidentally, marigolds also are truly beautiful, but that too is beyond your conception. JonRichfield (talk) 09:45, 24 September 2012 (UTC)