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Math Monday: Sunflowers and the Fibonacci sequence

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

The radiant sunflower is loved and revered for its many interesting characteristics. Sunflowers are amongst some of the tallest flowering plants and exist in many varieties of bloom color and type. All possess similar qualities of the scientific family to which it belongs: Asteracea, from the root-“aster”, meaning “star” due to the star-like formation of the flower head. The blooms of plants in this family appear to grow as a single flower, but are in fact smaller individual flowers arranged in unique patterns.

Sunflowers have been studied by scientists and mathematicians because of the complex sequences in which the flower’s clusters occur. This sequence is known as the Fibonacci Sequence, a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers (1,2,3,5,8,13,...144...610...). This phenomenon has been documented countless times in nature including in other plant/tree parts such as leaves, pine cones, flower petals/pistils, and also in animals, such as is seen in the nautilus’ shell, and even in humans. You can read more about the study of mathematics in nature in this 2016 article from Science Magazine:




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