Fibonacci Flowers — Where Nature and Math Collide
by Ray Novitske, Fairfax Master Gardener
Fibonacci patterns are found throughout the plant world, such as in the seed head arrangements of sunflowers and coneflowers, the branching of trees, and the rings on pineapples. To understand what Fibonacci patterns are and why they occur, settle in for your math class.
Leonardo Pisanoa Fibonacci was an 11th century Italian mathematician famous for bringing the Arabic numbers we use today to the merchant world to replace the cumbersome Roman numerals. He also pondered (mathematically speaking) the successive reproductive growth of rabbit populations. He wondered, How many rabbits would we have if a pair of rabbits produces another pair, and that second pair produced a pair along with the first pair, and each successive pair produced a pair along with the previous pairs?
He found the answer by applying an old Indian Hindu numbering sequence to develop a formula calculating the count over time. The Hindu sequence is what we in our Western-centric society now call the Fibonacci sequence. The sequence adds the previous two numbers in a series of numbers to arrive at the next one ( 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 … ). Any number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two.
But nature had already invented this and was using it in all sorts of ways. The mathematical logarithmic spiral of a nautilus shell, the branching of certain trees, and the spiral seed arrangements of flowers all use this sequence or a formulation of it.