Looking to Phyllotaxis for Insights for Solar Cell Arrangements

My investigation asked the question of whether there is a secret formula in tree design and whether the purpose of the spiral pattern is to collect sunlight better. After doing research, I put together test tools, experiments and design models to investigate how trees collect sunlight. At the end of my research project, I put the pieces of this natural puzzle together, and I discovered the answer. But the best part was that I discovered a new way to increase the efficiency of solar panels at collecting sunlight!

My investigation started with trying to understand the spiral pattern. I found the answer with a medieval mathematician and an 18th-century naturalist. In 1209 in Pisa, Leonardo of Pisano, also known as "Fibonacci," used his skills to answer a math puzzle about how fast rabbits could reproduce in pairs over a period of time. While counting his newborn rabbits, Fibonacci came up with a numerical sequence. Fibonacci used patterns in ancient Sanskrit poetry from India to make a sequence of numbers starting with zero (0) and one (1). Fibonacci added the last two numbers in the series together, and the sum became the next number in the sequence. The number sequence started to look like this: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34... . The number pattern had the formula Fn = Fn-1 Fn-2 and became the Fibonacci sequence. But it seemed to have mystical powers! When the numbers in the sequence were put in ratios, the value of the ratio was the same as another number, φ, or "phi," which has a value of 1.618. The number "phi" is nicknamed the "divine number" (Posamentier). Scientists and naturalists have discovered the Fibonacci sequence appearing in many forms in nature, such as the shape of nautilus shells, the seeds of sunflowers, falcon flight patterns and galaxies flying through space. What's more mysterious is that the "divine" number equals your height divided by the height of your torso, and even weirder, the ratio of female bees to male bees in a typical hive! (Livio)

In 1754, a naturalist named Charles Bonnet observed that plants sprout branches and leaves in a pattern, called phyllotaxis. Bonnet saw that tree branches and leaves had a mathematical spiral pattern that could be shown as a fraction. The amazing thing is that the mathematical fractions were the same numbers as the Fibonacci sequence! On the oak tree, the Fibonacci fraction is 2/5, which means that the spiral takes five branches to spiral two times around the trunk to complete one pattern. Other trees with the Fibonacci leaf arrangement are the elm tree (1/2); the beech (1/3); the willow (3/8) and the almond tree (5/13) (Livio, Adler).


Description of an investigation into the arrangement of leaves on trees as they relate to the Fibonacci sequence. Includes a great, brief explanation of Phi and phyllotaxis.

Folksonomies: trees naturalism solar power pyllotaxis phi fibonacci numbers leaves

/art and entertainment/visual art and design/design (0.553777)
/science/mathematics (0.346018)
/science/social science/history (0.321837)

Fibonacci sequence (0.921461 (negative:-0.223074)), spiral pattern (0.712877 (positive:0.738340)), Fibonacci leaf arrangement (0.661501 (neutral:0.000000)), mathematical spiral pattern (0.599054 (neutral:0.000000)), Fibonacci fraction (0.597904 (negative:-0.295593)), Cell Arrangements Description (0.593337 (negative:-0.223074)), ancient Sanskrit poetry (0.571248 (negative:-0.415424)), number sequence (0.566873 (positive:0.339800)), falcon flight patterns (0.557206 (neutral:0.000000)), numerical sequence (0.556189 (neutral:0.000000)), number pattern (0.520540 (neutral:0.000000)), brief explanation (0.507188 (neutral:0.000000)), tree design (0.506193 (positive:0.738340)), 18th-century naturalist (0.505115 (positive:0.578958)), secret formula (0.500592 (positive:0.738340)), test tools (0.499082 (positive:0.356487)), new way (0.497353 (positive:0.830923)), design models (0.497097 (positive:0.247104)), research project (0.496432 (positive:0.322298)), Charles Bonnet (0.495969 (neutral:0.000000)), natural puzzle (0.495754 (positive:0.615707)), formula Fn (0.495374 (neutral:0.000000)), medieval mathematician (0.495060 (positive:0.578958)), fast rabbits (0.494561 (neutral:0.000000)), newborn rabbits (0.494383 (neutral:0.000000)), divine number (0.493347 (positive:0.382659)), math puzzle (0.492715 (neutral:0.000000)), solar panels (0.491812 (positive:0.830923)), mystical powers (0.491610 (neutral:0.000000)), oak tree (0.490077 (neutral:0.000000))

Charles Bonnet:Person (0.744174 (neutral:0.000000)), solar panels:FieldTerminology (0.543603 (positive:0.830923)), Pisa:City (0.532186 (neutral:0.000000)), India:Country (0.504121 (negative:-0.415424)), Pisano:Person (0.470797 (neutral:0.000000))

Fibonacci number (0.987283): dbpedia | freebase
Mathematics (0.512195): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Number (0.511103): dbpedia | freebase
Leaf (0.503483): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Ratio (0.495416): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Golden ratio (0.445730): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Fermat's spiral (0.441177): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Plant morphology (0.428632): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Young Naturalist Awards: The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Aiden, (2011), Young Naturalist Awards: The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees, American Museum of Natural History, New York, Retrieved on 2011-08-28
  • Source Material [www.amnh.org]
  • Folksonomies: naturalism inquiry experiment solar power green phylotaxis