-This plant requires an extremely specific habitat. It lives in an arid and semi-arid desert. In order to survive, it doesn't grow in areas with much rain, but one that receives consistent amounts of fog. The only place where it has been found to grow is in small, isolated regions in the Namib Desert, which spreads across Northern Namibia and southern Angola.
- Because it is a plant, it does not have normal social or food behaviors. It does interact with other animals however. It provides some food to antelope and rhinos in dry seasons. This doesn't damage the plant however, because only the leaves are consumed and they will regrow. The core of the plant was consumed by some early African cultures. It's leaves also provide some shelter to small insects, arachnids, and mammals.
Unlike most gymnosperms, the male Tree Tumbo's pollen is not spread by the wind. Instead, they are believed to be primarily pollinated by a specific variety of wasp. The Tree Tumbo reproduces sexually, using at least two separate plants.
Because the Tree Tumbo uses cones to reproduce, it is classified as a gymnosperm, much like pine trees. The female cone grows on an entirely separate plant than the male cone. The female plant can produce thousands of seeds. Most seeds will get killed by fungus, so having a large number ensures some survival rate in the seeds.
Once fertilized, a cone can hold a viable seed for over two years. This ensures that the seed will get planted in good conditions. A seed can also lay on the ground for a few years and still grow if conditions are right.
Evidence of Evolution
Ginkgo Biloba, or the Ginkgo tree, was part of a very important study involving the Tree Tumbo. The mitogenome (mitochondrial genome) of both plants, both of which are gymnosperms, were sequenced. The two sequences were then examined. The two plants had extremely similar mitogenomes, which is very rare considering that the Tree Tumbo shares very little DNA with any other seed plant. This similarity shows that is is most likely that these plants shared a common ancestor, but departed evolutionary ways at one point as conditions changed.
Variation in Current Plants
In the northern regions of the "fog belt" where these plants grow, the plants vary from the plants in the south. The plants in the south, where annual rainfall is much lower, grow to be much larger than northern plants. This is the opposite of what you would expect. It is believed to be this way because the southern plants have much less competition, so they have evolved to be larger.
Another trait of the Tree Tumbo that stems from evolution is it's bark. The bark of the plant is very much like cork, which gives it a resistance to fires. In the Namib Desert, savanna fires are very common, so over the years the plant has developed resistance to it, contributing to it's ridiculously long lifespan of over 1500 years, the oldest specimen found being roughly 2000 years old, and possibly up to 3000 years.