From the Mona Lisa to the petals of a rose, the Fibonacci sequence is miraculously abundant

Quick Notes

  • The Fibonacci sequence was first introduced to Western civilization in the 13th century

  • It’s a sequence of numbers that is defined by the following number amounting to the sum of the previous two numbers

  • Astonishingly, it is found throughout the natural world in the petals of flowers and branches of trees

Leonardo of Pisa, otherwise known as Fibonacci, was a physicist in the 13th century who first introduced the concept now known as the Fibonacci sequence to Western civilization. Despite its name, it was actually a Sanskrit grammarian known as Pingala, who is first evidenced as citing the sequence of numbers.

This sequence, also known as the golden ratio, is a pattern of numbers that is comprised of the following number being the sum of the previous two. For example, 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 and so on.

It is often used in art to denote a work that is particularly aesthetically pleasing due to the way the dimensions are sectioned off. For instance, the Fibonacci sequence is present in many Renaissance paintings and even the iconic Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo Da Vinci.

A miracle of science, or a practical tool of the natural world?

It isn’t just the art world that finds itself fascinated by the implementation of the Fibonacci sequence, however. Botanists and physicians alike are often astounded by how often this golden ratio appears in natural phenomena, particularly in plants and trees. These specimens are otherwise known as Fibonacci plants.

Examples of the Fibonacci sequence occurring in the natural world include the patterns of tree branches, the formation of seeds on the face of a flower, and even the arrangement of petals in a rose. This phenomenon occurs time and time again. There is little explanation as to the reason why, if indeed there even is a reason why.

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It may be some form of natural miracle, it may be some intentional evidence of a higher power, or it might just be a case of human beings once again finding divine significance behind an otherwise completely innocuous coincidence. In actuality, the closest accepted reason to why Fibonacci plants may grow this way is none other than mathematical efficiency.

If we were to examine the tightly packed leaves of a succulent or cabbage, where the leaves spiral around the center stem of the plant, we would notice that they grow in the order of a Fibonacci sequence. This is done so that each of the leaves has enough space of their own to flourish, and there isn’t overcrowding.

Beyond looking pleasing to the eye, it’s really a practical sequence

It isn’t just overcrowding that Fibonacci spacing helps with either. Plants require adequate sun exposure to grow correctly, due to the vital role sunlight performs in photosynthesis. The equal spacing of leaves a Fibonacci plant experiences allows for equal sun exposure.

This also applies to branched plants and trees, which also frequently demonstrate the Fibonacci sequence. By growing outwards in equal measure, all branches can reach to the sun without competition from other branches of the same stem or trunk. This means that overall growth is unhindered and entirely measured.

The Fibonacci sequence actually often serves a profound and practical purpose in keeping plants alive and healthy

While the Fibonacci sequence may seem initially useful only for achieving peak aestheticism, it actually often serves a profound and practical purpose in keeping plants alive and healthy. There are occasions where this sequence occurs, and there is no such explanation.

For instance, pinecones demonstrate a twinned set of spirals, with one side growing in a clockwise direction and the other in an anticlockwise direction. When two sets of these spirals are counted, they amount to the Fibonacci sequence. The reason for this is unknown, as it doesn’t seem to aid plant growth whatsoever. Perhaps there’s something divine in it, after all.

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