Thinking of the Namib Desert huge sand dunes immediately spring to mind, but different to the massive sand sea of the southern desert the central and northern Namib Desert are characterized by the Namib plains with inselbergs and rocky outcrops.
The wonder plant, Welwitschia mirabilis is endemic to the Namib Desert and some of them are believed to be 1 000 to 1 500 years old. Although it appears otherwise, the plant has only two leaves, which grow continually from the base, even in the absence of rain. The leaves are apparently able to take up fog-water, although the root, which extends three meters into the ground, is well adapted to find any available moisture in the gravel where the plant lives. Though the annual growth of a leaf in a dry year can be 10 to 20 cm, it can be up to10cm a month during a wet year.
Lichens, plants that may even be older than Welwitschia mirabilis, occur in great numbers in the fog zone along the coast and are also extremely sensitive to damage. There are several hundred species of lichen and some species are believed to live for thousands of years. Lichens are the result of a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. The fungus portion of a plant provides the physical support, while the algae carries out the photosynthesis that provides food and energy. Lichens are able to use moisture from humid air as well as from fog.
Saltpans and lagoons in different stages of evolution occur all along the coastline while the soil inland in the fog-belt consists mainly of gypsum. Gypsum soil are extremely sensitive to damage from off-road driving, and tracks on these surfaces persist for decades.