Ordinarily, the Word of the Week posts include definitions, particularly for words with biblical uses. But this week, I’m sharing about Sunflowers in these waning days of summer because I’ve seen so many images of sunflowers on social media this year.
This uniquely North American plant originated in northern Mexico and the southern United States. Hardy, they can be cultivated and grown in home gardens, a source of both beauty and food.
But you probably knew all that; you use Google too.
What amazes me most about sunflowers is that their florets form a spiral, in a Fibonacci sequence.
If you didn’t know, Fibonacci numbers are important in computer programming, technical financial analysis and even musical composition. Fibonacci numbers converge to the golden ratio, or sectio divina. Johannes Kepler wrote, “The image of man and woman stems from the divine proportion. In my opinion, the propagation of plants and the progenitive acts of animals are in the same ratio.” The golden ratio observed in three-dimensional shapes are often seen as attractive and symmetrical, even harmonious and proportional.
Lots of plants have Fibonacci spirals. From Wikipedia: “[Fibonacci spirals] also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit sprouts of a pineapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern, and the arrangement of a pine cone’s bracts.”
One summer when my kids were small, we grew sunflowers in our garden, because my daughter loved them. Maybe her young artist eye appreciated something of the symmetry of these flowers, something satisfying beyond her young vocabulary. Maybe it was just the intense gold of the flower’s petals, or maybe she just liked to eat sunflower seeds and looked forward to a bountiful supply!
When I was a kid, one of my favorite ‘toys’ was a Spirograph. Plastic circles were pinned to paper, then a different shape was placed inside or outside the circle. Add your pen, and soon you were drawing endlessly varied designs, Fibonacci spirals galore. It was incredibly satisfying, not only the creation of the spiral, but the immaculate beauty in their symmetry.
When it comes to sunflowers, I don’t know whether it’s the divine proportion, or the spiral that nearly steps out of imagination that is so magnetic. Lingering over sunflowers seems to appeal to many people, not just me, not just my daughter. I hope these sunflower images give you pause, and provide deep satisfaction and joy at the wonder of God’s boundless creativity. Feel free to share your favorite sunflower images in the comments.
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