As humans our ability to process and interpret information from our five senses helps form and shape our concepts of the world. Our brain deciphers the data of sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste, forming the framework for our interaction with the environment.
Plants and flowers play an important role in all cultures. Our response to botanical life engages all of our senses. Form, color, and fragrance grab our attention, while texture and taste deepen our sensitivity.
Details from Vase of Flowers IV and Vase of Flowers I
Growing and photographing flowers is a celebration of life cycles. Plants transition through an astounding variety of forms as they develop buds, blooms and seeds.
Watching the structural details of growing and developing plants reveals that their forms are, in fact, beautiful, repeating permutations of a few highly organized patterns of design.
Three Universal Structural Forms
Integrated with the structural forms is symmetry. The elegance of petals encircling a floral center, or one side of a flower reflecting the other side, enhances the underlying beauty of botanical design.
Two Symmetrical Patterns
The structural patterns of plants are not unique to flora; they also are found in other forms, both natural and physical. From seashells to wind patterns, nerve cells to river tributaries, snakeskin to cellular substructure, the patterns of nature visually connect us to our universe.
The calyx of the Calla spirals around its central flower, visually similar to the spiraling shell of the nautilus. Leaflets branching from the stalk of an Ostrich Fern fan outward like river tributaries. On the rose blossom, layers of petals, almost protectively, surround the central stamen and pistil, while a snake finds protection with its layered scaly skin.
Symmetry in Nature
Symmetry is an important aspect of structural stability and functionality. Both plants and animals exhibit two types of symmetry, bilateral and radial. Genetic and mechanical forces on growth are the means by which living forms develop their symmetry. Humans see beauty in symmetry, so it is not surprising that most people revere the magnificence of flowers.
The blooms of the bleeding heart, an early spring wildflower, and the pansy, with its many faces of color, display floral bilateral symmetry.
Orchid blossoms exhibit spectacular bilaterally symmetry. Their blooms are delicate to almost alien.
Most plants in gardens blossom with radially symmetrical flowers, that flaunt their showy colors to attract pollinators. Non-living forms, most notably crystals, also grow with radial symmetrical form.
Passion flowers bloom with flowers that have petals, filaments, sepals, anthers and stigma radiating around the bloom’s center. A snow crystal is beautiful formation of a hexagonal crystalline ice.
South Africa is the native country where the genus Leucadendron grows. The waxy leaf structures grow radially around the central cone-like structure. Coccolithophores are unicellular, algae-like forms that form radially symmetrical calcite scales, the coccoliths.
The tiny herbal flower of the Borage displays its symmetry of fives, with petals, sepals and anthers radiating from its center. Similarly, five sea star arms radiate from the center of this invertebrate ocean dweller’s body.
Every summer fields are rich with wild flowers. One of the most delicate and beautiful of these flowers is Queen Anne’s Lace. Its blossoms of repeating florets explode, like fireworks, as they bloom covering many vista with summer lace.
There is a special emotion that watching plant life cycles offers. To witness floral life cycles, leaves, buds, blooms and seeds transitioning through the seasons, offers a glimpse into the structural patterns of life that connect us to both larger and smaller entities of our world.
*Images marked with asterisk are pen and ink drawings by Diane Abeloff. All other photographs and illustrations are created by Amy Lamb.