“The smallest flower is a thought, a life answering to some feature of the Great Whole...” ~ Honore de Balzac
There is a wildflower I’m especially fond of that comes up along the edges and unlikely places in my yard, and starts blooming in late summer. It always makes me happy to see the tiny toothed leaves emerge from the ground, because I know that they’ve reseeded and will do just fine with absolutely no help from me. It’s still blooming in late November but going to seed. The common name is Mistflower; these have blooms of lavender and soft violet, and from a distance the many stamens and coloring sometimes gives the appearance of distant mist drifting over the ground.
I’m often fascinated by the self-similarity of its leaves. Each tiny leaf a miniature of the largest. You could argue that many plants are like this (and some are), but it’s the way these branch and divide and arrange its heart-shaped leaves that captivates me. I’m not good at fractal geometry, but I enjoy how Mistflower shows up in the world. If you don’t know fractals, here is a partial definition from the FractalFoundation.org: “Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.”
Patterns appear everywhere in nature – some seem random, and some quite precise. Some patterns depend on the macro or the micro view. When I think of self-similar things, I’m reminded of mineral structures. I know, an unlikely sideways jaunt from botany to geology – but this is one of the things I love about nature journaling. I never know where it might take me.
Those who know me well, know that I also love rocks. Geology is a huge part of the why of things, but that’s a subject for another time. One of the more interesting things I’ve learned is that the atomic structure of a mineral is reflected in the external crystal structure. In other words, we can look at pure salt crystals in our hand and predict that we’ll see similar crystal shapes under the microscope. This is because they fracture along specific structural lines. Other minerals and impurities can change this, but generally the microscopic pattern determines the real-world pattern.
I don’t know enough to say that this is what happens in the plant world, just saying that the natural world is an amazing place and full of unexpected patterns and connections. We just have to change our viewpoint. Do you find yourself fascinated by patterns as well? What connections do you make?
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For more about Mistflower From Florida Wildflower: https://flawildflowers.org/flower-friday-conoclinium-coelestinum/
Dip into fractals Fractals in nature from Dave’s Garden: https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1966
Fractals in everything: https://news.globallandscapesforum.org/43195/fractals-nature-almost-all-things/
A long but fascinating article on why fractals resonate with us: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/why-fractals-are-so-soothing/514520/
Dig into mineral structures
Cleavage and fracture properties explained in easy-to-understand language on page 4:
An open textbook, in-depth on crystal morphology: https://opengeology.org/Mineralogy/10-crystal-morphology-and-symmetry/