“I want to be like a sunflower, so that even on darkest days I will stand tall and find sunlight.” Unknown
Sunflowers are so intriguing, so fascinating. Why? Like a magnet, when I hear about a field of sunflowers, the pull is so strong. I have to go take in the beauty. True to form when I heard about The Green Acres Farm annual Sunflower Field in Milan, Tennessee, I couldn’t hold back. Pulling up to the farm with camera in hand, I first stand to take in the sight of the mass of happy yellow flowers with a backdrop of Cerulean Blue sky with scattered little puffy white clouds. It was a perfect sunflower day!
With camera up, I wandered the paths through the tall stalks of green topped with their golden yellow crowns. I was a little speck in the sea of green and yellow. I snapped photo after photo. With bucket in hand, I cut some blooms to take home. I was excited to begin painting as soon as I could get home. When I got home and looked at my bucket of blooms, then at the photos, an amazing thing happened. I discovered the presence of the Fibonacci Sequence right in front of me in the center of each of those glorious bright yellow faces. I was stunned. I had never paid that much attention to this phenomenon before though I had heard of it many times. There it was staring me in the face. I had to learn more!
Math is like speaking an unknown language to me. To say it was difficult in school is an understatement. But there was math staring me in the face. Math really is all around us. I looked up the Sequence and found quite a bit about it related to flowers and plants. In nearly every article and blog post, sunflowers feature so prominently as a great example. Looking into those center spirals stunned me. I can’t begin to explain the math of the sequence and suggest a familiarization with Mr. Leonardo Fibonacci back in the 12thcentury, but there it was.
In my information search, what came up that was understandable for me was the concept of the botanical term “Phyllotaxis” or “Phyllotaxy.” meaning “the arrangement of leaves on a stem.” Phyllotactic spirals form a distinctive class of patterns in nature. As I looked at the pattern staring back at me from these beautiful golden blooms, I wondered if this is why sunflowers are so fascinating. Is it the pattern? Or is it the way these fascinating bright yellow faces follow the sun? Maybe it’s both. As I started to paint I realized I would need a compass to get the perfect spirals right. Whatever happened to my old Spirograph?? Since I have some practicing to do to get my rusty compass skills up to par, the first painting had to be a side view. Call me chicken! I wasn’t ready yet to take on the spirals. But I’m working on it!!
Here is a great blog post on sunflowers from Purplerays Blog: