DOI: 1002.0622Feb 2, 2010Paper

Annealing a Magnetic Cactus into Phyllotaxis

Cristiano NisoliVincent H Crespi


The appearance of mathematical regularities in the disposition of leaves on a stem, scales on a pine-cone and spines on a cactus has puzzled scholars for millennia; similar so-called phyllotactic patterns are seen in self-organized growth, polypeptides, convection, magnetic flux lattices and ion beams. Levitov showed that a cylindrical lattice of repulsive particles can reproduce phyllotaxis under the (unproved) assumption that minimum of energy would be achieved by 2-D Bravais lattices. Here we provide experimental and numerical evidence that the Phyllotactic lattice is actually a ground state. When mechanically annealed, our experimental "magnetic cactus" precisely reproduces botanical phyllotaxis, along with domain boundaries (called transitions in Botany) between different phyllotactic patterns. We employ a structural genetic algorithm to explore the more general axially unconstrained case, which reveals multijugate (multiple spirals) as well as monojugate (single spiral) phyllotaxis.

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