Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Fibonacci comes to the Marlborough rock daisy

with 16 comments

Marlborough Rock Daisy Receptacle and Shadow 5460

One native plant that caught my attention at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington on February 20th was the Marlborough rock daisy, Pachystegia insignis. In the central disk of these seed head remains you can confirm the presence of consecutive Fibonacci numbers: I count 13 clockwise spirals and 21 counter-clockwise spirals (I believe New Zealanders say anti-clockwise), and I’ve thrown in 1 conspicuous shadow at no extra charge.

If you’d like to confirm the Fibonacci counts for yourself, click on the disk below for an enlargement. I find it easier to pick out the counter-clockwise spirals, but both are there.

Marlborough Rock Daisy Center 5460

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2015 at 5:11 AM

16 Responses

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  1. I will take your word for it. Looking closely at the disk makes me dizzy. From a distance it looks like a lovely, feathery fascinator.


    June 18, 2015 at 5:44 AM

    • I had to look up fascinator to see what you had in mind. Some of the dictionaries include a definition like ‘a woman’s lightweight head scarf usually of crochet or lace,’ but scarf isn’t what I would call most of the items I see at


      Were you to wear one of these Marlborough rock daisy seed heads in your hair, I wonder what reactions you’d get from people. If you try the experiment, you’ll have a ready-made subject for a post in your blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 18, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      • Hmm…..I have not heard the scarf definition of a fascinator but you certainly found a fascinating collection of fascinators. If I had a Marlborough rock daisy I would be tempted to experiment with a fascinator and public reaction. On many occasions I have been out in public, well-dressed, but minus one of a pair of earrings. No one has been fascinated in the least by my act of forgetfulness.


        June 18, 2015 at 9:04 AM

  2. Math is a beautiful thing.


    June 18, 2015 at 9:01 AM

  3. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a photo where an object and its shadow are so dissimilar. It’s quite amazing. Their juxtaposition makes the photo far more interesting than the seedhead or shadow alone would have done. And, I suspect that, had I seen only the shadow, I never would have imagined the reality behind it — as we do with shadows of people and trees.

    I wonder if there’s a crumpled-up scrap of paper somewhere bearing the words, “Between the seedhead and the leaf, falls the shadow”?


    June 18, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    • The thick shadow made this photograph unique among the ones I’ve taken of seed heads, where it has often been true that a viewer can follow each spiral inward to the center to confirm that this is the way the whirl ends.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 18, 2015 at 3:18 PM

  4. ¡Qué maravilla!

  5. I agree it does resemble a fascinator. Something that the royal princesses are fond of. It is funny how we take our own native plants for granted. Now I have become something of a bird watcher and am more aware of what is around me.

    Raewyn's Photos

    June 19, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    • That’s two votes for a likeness to fascinators from two New Zealand ladies.

      Once I started paying attention to natives in Texas, I was fascinated by how many species of them there are, and it sounds like you’re having a similar reaction over there. Maybe you’ll extend from birds to plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2015 at 6:01 PM

  6. Love this photograph with its no-cost shadow, even if I didn’t count (I am very happy to take your word for that)!

    Susan Scheid

    June 26, 2015 at 10:00 PM

    • And I’m happy to give my word—at no cost, of course—to anyone who’ll listen.

      I’ll add that a no-cost shadow is preferable to a no-account shadow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 6:27 AM

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