This Aloe polyphylla I photographed in a San Francisco garden in 2013 is a beautiful example of the Fibonacci sequence in nature. It’s also a good example of a fractal, something which exhibits a repetitive pattern, here, a spiral. Kylee Baumle/Paulding County Progress
This Aloe polyphylla I photographed in a San Francisco garden in 2013 is a beautiful example of the Fibonacci sequence in nature. It’s also a good example of a fractal, something which exhibits a repetitive pattern, here, a spiral. Kylee Baumle/Paulding County Progress
During The Great Freeze of 2019, I started out worrying about my plants in the garden. Though we had some snow cover for insulation from The Great Blizzard of 2019 a week or so before, we’d also had some warmer temperatures and rain, enough to melt some of it.

That worry switched gears though, when on the coldest night in 20 years, our electricity went out. We have a small greenhouse, previously heated by propane. This winter, we’re heating it with an electric heater due to a policy change at the propane company. (Another story for another day.) Losing electricity is a problem.

Our greenhouse is stuffed with all kinds of plants that can’t survive being outside in Ohio winters. Many are tropicals that even pout at temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s. With these unseasonably cold temperatures, the electric heater was finding it challenging to maintain 50°, which is where we like to keep it in winter, so we added a second one.

When the electricity went out, both my husband and I looked at each other and immediately went over to the remote thermometer to keep an eye on the greenhouse temperature. In a matter of just five minutes, the temperature had dropped by two degrees and we knew it wouldn’t be long before it reached freezing.

Since the electricity repair wasn’t expected for at least another hour and a half, something needed to be done. We have a generator, so he bundled himself up, braved the cold and wind, and rolled it out to the greenhouse. He saved the day and a plant disaster was averted.

As all this was taking place, I thought to myself, “If I need to rescue any plants, which one would I cover with a blanket and bring in?” I knew immediately that it would be my Agave victoriae-reginae. I acquired it when I caught a Young’s Greenhouse employee on a good day several years ago.

What’s so special about this agave? For one thing, it’s an agave – a genus of plants that I love. Few are hardy for us, so they require bringing in for the winter. They have an architectural look to them, thanks to the Fibonacci sequence and how it exhibits itself in nature. And you almost never see them around here, so there’s that rarity factor for us northerners.

The Fibonacci sequence, also known as The Golden Ratio, is a pattern of numbers in mathematics in which each successive number is the sum of the two before it. (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21, etc.) Discovered by an Italian mathematician in the 13th century, it translates into patterns in nature, too.

In nature, the placement of leaves, seeds, stems and the like are often in relation to one another in the same ratio of the Fibonacci sequence. A good example of this is a pine cone. Look at it closely and you’ll see that the seeds of a cone aren’t placed randomly; they’re in a definite pattern.

The pattern can also be easily seen in the seed head of a sunflower, but it’s not so apparent with tree and root branching, even though the Fibonacci sequence also plays a part in their natural (not pruned) placement. Flower petals follow the sequence, too.

I liked math in school, but I never really thought I’d be thinking about it in regard to the beauty of plants. No doubt there’s a functional reason that this sequence can be found in nature, but most people just find it pleasing to the eye. Fibonacci is fun to say, too.

Read more at Kylee’s blog, Our Little Acre, at www.ourlittleacre.com. Contact her on Facebook or by email at pauldingprogressgardener@gmail.com.