Desert Too Lonely For Fake News Articles

I am busy clearing out some old emails and came across this fake news article I wrote in 2005, I think it was. Ha ha ha! Heaven help us all! I have not edited it, as tempting as it would be to do that.


It is very seldom that someone has a rare plant in their garden and doesn’t know about it. It is even rarer if the plant is foreign to the area. More often than not such a plant is bought as a special item by those gardeners in the know. Or the plant is given as a present. But one usually has a good idea of what is going on in one’s garden, especially when one is a keen gardener.

Imagine therefore the surprise of Mr Charl Winters from Betties’ Bay when he discovered on his front lawn his own Welwitschia – five years after he had moved in. Mr Winters first noticed the plant in April this year when he was busy weeding the lawn. At first he thought it was a stray leaf that had fallen from a nearby rubber tree, but when he tried to pick it up, it stayed firmly rooted to the ground.

“I gave it another tug, a bit harder this time, but still the leaf wouldn’t move,” said Winters, “So I called my wife and had her take a look.” Mrs Winters was also baffled by the “big leaf”, which was then about 10cm long and 7cm wide. They then decided to telephone their cousin’s son-in-law, Robbie, who is a botanist at the University of Cape Town to see if he could shed some light on the matter.

When the phone call first came, Robbie thought that the Winters’ were pulling his leg and really couldn’t figure out what kind of a plant they were talking about. “The likelihood of a Welwitschia growing in the wet suburbs of a coastal town is practically zero,” said Robbie du Toit, a specialist in succulents at the Department of Botany at UCT. “However, curiosity got the better of me, so I went and had a look at this strange plant the Winters’ had discovered on their lawn.”

When Robbie saw the plant, he immediately confirmed that it was indeed a Welwitschia. The plant was easy to identify, according to him. It had the trademark two broad leaves, and no stem. He took a sample for tests at his laboratory, but told the Winters’ that he was sure that the plant was what they suspected it was.

His tests and subsequent analysis proved his identification to be correct. The plant has however been left to grow where it is. Robbie says that it will probably be in science’s interest to see how the plant fares in foreign habitat. Usually the Welwitschia only grows in deserts, such as the Namib and flowers only after 20 years.

The Winters’ will therefore have to wait quite a while to see if their plant will bloom, but until then, it makes a good story to tell friends and family. “I am glad it is here,” said Mr Winters, “it probably got a bit lonely there in the desert! At least here it is sure of a loving home.”

How it got there and how it manages to grow and survive, is still a mystery though.


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