Word #8: “phyllotaxis” (n.)

noun. [Botany]

  1. The arrangement of leaves or other lateral members (e.g. the scales of a pine cone, the florets of a flower of the family Asteraceae ( Compositae), etc.) on an axis or stem; the geometrical principles of such arrangement.

Below are mathematical functions for variant phyllotaxis shapes found in organic structures, and, even more fantastically, their nomenclature.


Quote #1: Sir Thomas Browne (1635)

There is no man alone, because every man is a Microcosme, and carries the whole world about him;

Sloane 981, f.68

passage from Religio Medici (new Greenblatt edition available from NYRB); accompanying picture from the British Library collection of illuminated manuscripts: medical miscellany from the ‘book of Macharias on the eye called Salaracer or secret of secrets’ drawn in England, sometime the last quarter of the 14th or 1st quarter of the 15th century.