"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Leaf of the Day: Cycad Seeds

Todays drawing is a coloured pencil version of yesterdays seeds. To just draw 2 seeds doesn't really do these magnificent ancient plants justice but to tackle a full leaf or cone requires much more time.
I am always fascinated by the design and mechanics of seed pods. The ways that seeds develop and are then dispersed shows natural design at its most ingenious. Anyone who has studied design in any discipline sees structures in nature that are repeated by engineers and architects.
The cycads produce seed cones which have a similar visual design to pine cones and pineapples with arcs and spiral patterns.

Here are cones from Marie Selby Gardens and Leu Gardens.















this photo and more from Dave's Garden


These patterns are formed by the way the individual scales are arranged. The spirals follow patterns depending on the size of the cones There may be 3 spirals running to the left and 5 spirals moving oppositely, or vice versa. In larger ones, a combination of 5 and 8 spirals, or 8 and 13 spirals and giant cones may have a combination of 13 and 21.

The sharp knives in the box will have realised that these numbers are the Fibonacci sequence.... but that is a whole other post or two. Here it is demonstrated with a strawberry.. same principal.





My two seeds here were both attached to one cone scale by their tips and hang either side of a central "stem". ..one since came away.

Its shape reminded me of the old fairground ride the Paratrooper and, come to think of it, fairground ride design in general must owe something to the design of seed pods.
The principals are similar although it is preferable that the occupants of these various pods, capsules and containers, whilst being twisted and twirled, are not literally scattered to the winds...












Link for the spiral and other great food/design stuff is at http://www.foodfordesign.blogspot.com/
For more photos and some fairground nostalgia go to the University of Sheffield's wonderful National Fairground Archive
www.nfa.dept.shef.ac.uk/inldex.htm

I am writing a separate post on the wonderful prehistoric cycads.. they are fascinating both in their antiquity and their bizarre pollination methods which involve some over-heated insects and perfumes good and bad...coming next.
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Cycad Seeds




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