The long leaves of desert Welwitschia capture water by collecting dew and channeling it into the ground where a large tap root can absorb it.
"Further inland, one of the oddest of all plants manages to survive largely on dew. Welwitschia is related to the conifers and the cycads and consists of just two long strap-like leaves that sprout from a central swollen trunk only a few inches high. The leaves grow continuously from their base and become very long indeed. They would doubtless be even longer were it not for the desert winds which, blowing them back and forth, frays the ends into tatters. Even as it is, these leaves may be twenty yards long and lie curled in untidy heaps around the stunted trunk. They collect droplets of dew and channel them down runnels into the ground where the water is absorbed and stored in an immense conical tap root." (Attenborough 1995:267)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.