University of Leicester eBulletin

Pattern of Life at University of Leicester Botanic Garden

March 2002

No 72  

Contributions sought for new paving stones based on natural design

Visitors sampling the delights of the University of Leicester Botanic Garden, which this month re-opened to the public after the winter, will soon be literally ‘out for the count’!

Plans are being laid to create a design based on a centuries old theory – devised from the breeding pattern of rabbits!

And members of the public are being asked to help contribute towards the paving designs proposed for the 16-acre garden set in Oadby.

Director Dr Richard Gornall said: “From time to time the Botanic Garden receives offers of money to buy trees.

“Many people also make offers of contributions for seats – and we are now asking people to consider funding this innovative and exciting project.

“We hope to construct some new paving for the herb garden, to be sited on the two lower lawns. The designs are based on the Fibonacci series, a set of numbers named after a 12th century Italian mathematician who discovered them while considering how rabbit populations might increase in number. Fibonacci (ca 1175-1240, from Pisa) obtained his series by starting with a ‘0’ and a ‘1’ and then adding the last two numbers together to make the next. So we get ...

0          1          1          2          3          5          8          13         ... and so on.

“This may seem to have little to do with plants and botanic gardens, but actually this series is the basis for various spiral patterns that are common in nature and in plants in particular. The numbers translate into a spiral (see illustration right). spiral illustration
"Many plants show Fibonacci spirals, for example in the arrangement of leaves around a stem and of flowers in a flower head. The spiral arrangement represents a very efficient way of packing individual growing points (meristems) into the small area of the shoot apex. With regard to leaves, it also means that successive leaves do not hide the ones below to any great extent, thus allowing them to capture light more efficiently. Other familiar examples include the scales on a pine-cone (see illustration right). cross-section of pine-cone

Dr Gornall said: “The two paving designs are to be based on the two illustrations presented here. Once in place they will form an important component of the mathematics activity offered to schools by our education programme, SEED.

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Last updated: April 2002
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