Suflower seeds in the golden ratio

Sunflower heads use the golden ratio to maximize the number of seeds they have

Staring at a drying giant sunflower head on the fence is an oddly fascinating, yet satisfying experience. It’s not because the shriveling leaves and petals are particularly attractive, but because the seeds in the head grow in a pattern known as the “Fibonacci sequence” or what artists and designers like to call the “Golden Ratio.”

Without getting into heavy math, something is considered to be in the golden ratio when the sum of two numbers is roughly 1.6 times larger than the bigger number that preceded it. For example 2+3=5 and 5 is 1.5 times larger than 3. 3+5=8 and 8 is 1.6 times larger than 5. 5+8=13 and 13 is 1.625 times larger than 8.

Anyway, the Fibonnaci sequence is the guiding principal in the universe and you can see it in everything from galaxies to snail shells. It’s the most efficient way to maximize the use of a space, and practically every living thing, including flowers, is built on it. Sunflower seeds are arranged in this sequence because it maximizes the number of seeds that can be packed into a seed head.

What’s more interesting, however, is that our brains recognize the pattern as “attractive”, regardless of where it appears — including in people. A person who’s ration of chin to eye is 5 and eye to top of head ratio is 3 is visually “attractive” where a person with a 4 to 4 ratio is not. It’s something hardwired from a long way back because babies, dogs and even reptiles recognize it.

So the next time you’re staring at something, enjoying how the individual parts make a pleasing pattern, just know that you’re probably looking at a nice Fibonnaci sequence and the golden ratio.

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Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.