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Gnetae

The Gnetae are plants in the order Gnetophyta. They are a probably paraphyletic group of gymnosperms[?] that are different from other gymnosperms in having vessels as the flowering plants do.

They are divided into three groups:

  • Gnetophyta
    • Gnetales
    • Welwitschiales
    • Ephedrales

The Gnetales consist of a single genus, Gnetum, which are mostly woody climbers in tropical forests. However, the most well-known member of this group, Gnetum gnemon is a tree. The seeds produced are used to produce a crispy snack known as 'kerepok' in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Malay name for this plant is 'belinjau'.

The Welwitschiales comprise only one species, Welwitschia mirabilis. It grows only in the deserts of Namibia. The plant is strange in having only two large strap-like leaves for all its life. These grow continuously from the base, and are usually tattered at the ends by flapping in the winds.

The Ephedrales are known as the joint firs because they have long slender branches which bear tiny scale-like leaves at their nodes. Ephedra is reputed to have medicinal properties.



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