Have y’all heard of Fibonacci’s Ratio? I first heard the term in a plant ID course a couple of years ago, and it keeps coming up since then. It’s this totally fascinating mathematical sequence, and I just can’t help but repeatedly geeking out about it!
Fibonacci would be a pretty old dude if he were still alive. Over 800 by now, it appears. (That’s older than anyone I’ve ever met.) He observed a mathematical phenomenon, and is credited with first describing it. Fibonacci’s Ratio (or sometimes Fibonacci’s Sequence) is all around us, all the time, and once I became aware of it I began to notice just how pervasive it is in the natural world.
The geeky part, if you’re into math ratio titillation: Start with 0, and add 1. You end up with 1. 1+1=2. Then 1+2=3. And 2+3=5. (See a pattern forming? Take the 2nd number of your equation and add it to the answer…) 3+5=8. And 5+8=13. Get it? Good! That ratio represents the angle degrees between emerging leaves and branches.
So, who cares? Well, just look at plants! Really look at them. You’ve probably looked at a sunflower before, and noticed the subtle spiral pattern of the seeds. Fibonacci! Stare into a succulent Aeonium or Echeveria… Fibonacci! A stalk of Brussels sprouts has got Fibonacci all over it! But wait, there’s more.
Recently there was this story relating to Fibonacci, and it got me all atwitter about it all over again. I hadn’t noticed, but trees branch out with this same pattern. That’s crazy talk! Turns out, this thirteen year old boy noticed the patterning in tree branches and did some research. He theorized that there is a reason for this ratio, or else it wouldn’t happen. Must be something to do with sun patterns, and a plant’s desire to maximize contact with sunlight. He ran some tests and numbers, and has single-handedly begun a revolution in the solar panel industry. By mounting small solar panels in a Fibonacci-friendly sequence he has improved their performance by, like, a billion percent. Go, Aidan!