International research collaboration solves centuries-old puzzle of pattern formation in flower heads

Figuring out how the distinctive and ubiquitous patterns form has puzzled scientists for centuries. In international team including University of Calgary researchers has solved the problem that stumped so many, including famed British mathematician, computer scientist and theoretical biologist Alan Turing.

The team’s five-year study focused on “phyllotaxis,” the distribution of organs such as leaves and flowers on their supporting structure, which is a key attribute of plant architecture.

The formation of spiral phyllotactic patterns has been an open fundamental problem in developmental plant biology for centuries, due to the patterns’ role in defining plant form, says study co-author Dr. Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, PhD, professor in the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science.

“We have cracked this problem,” he says.

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