In the Gnetaceous Welwitschia it possesses a vegetable type whose extraordinary peculiarities make it seem amongst contemporary vegetation much as some strange and extinct animal form would if suddenly endowed with life.
Ovules naked, rarely without carpellary leaves, usually borne on carpophylls, which assume various forms. The single megaspore enclosed in the nucellus is filled with tissue (prothallus) before fertilization, and contains two or more archegonia, consisting usually of a large egg-cell and a small neck, rarely of an egg-cell only and no neck (Gnetum and Welwitschia).
In Welwitschia also the megaspore is filled with prothallus-tissue, but single egg-cells take the place of archegonia.
In certain species of Gnetum described by Karsten the megaspore contains a peripheral layer of protoplasm, in which scattered nuclei represent the female reproductive cells; in Gnetum Gnemon a similar state of things exists in the upper half of the megaspore, while the lower half agrees with the megaspore of Welwitschia in being full of prothallus-tissue, which serves merely as a reservoir of food.
In a supplement to the systematic work of Engler and Prantl the well-known name Welwitschia, instituted by Hooker in 1864 in honour of Welwitsch, the discoverer of the plant, is superseded by that of Tumboa, originally suggested by Welwitsch.