There are so many beautiful teachable moments up on the mountain and everywhere else, when it comes to plant life. As children, we are taught about circles and squares and triangles, but what about radials-starbursts and sunbursts?
Radials are something that begin in the center and bursts out from there, like fireworks. They capture our attention. They make us stop and look and admire the beautiful way that it grows. Some could be easily described as growing in a circular pattern, or like a globe. This is true, but it could also be described as a radial pattern.
Look at the photo above of the Wheeler Thistle. This flower is blooming at Rose Canyon Lake near Mount Lemmon, AZ. From afar, it looks more like a globe, or a sphere. When you look a little closer, it looks like fireworks! Most of the grasses on Mount Lemmon also grow from the center and branch out as well. It is really amazing just how many radial forms are out there.
When you are walking through the desert, look at the Aloe Veras and Agaves. Take a moment to look from above and look down to the center. They all begin from the center and grow outwards in a fireworks pattern.
Is it enough for my small child to just know what a triangle is, a square, a circle, a rectangle, a heart? The answer is yes. If you can show more shapes at an earlier age, then you can open their eyes to see a lot more than just what we are normally taught. In some cases, things do not necessarily belong just with circles, or just with triangles. Depending on how you see the plant for that moment, it could be both, or something entirely different. This is how mathematics is, observing the behavior and seeing for what it is for that one moment.
Take the Blue Globe Glow Thistle. Once the petals have fallen off and I look from above the blossom, I could say that this is a radial pattern, something that looks like fireworks. However, when the petals are still there, as shown below, I could say that this looks like a sphere, or little stars on a sphere. It just depends on how you look at this flower. Nature shows us how many different names and answers we can come up with by the way we look at things. In many cases, problems in mathematics may have more than one answer, just like this Blue Globe Glow Thistle. 🙂
Take a look at the other examples of radials by scrolling down this page.
Blue Globe Thistle (Echniops bannaticus) Fort Ticonderoga, NY Copyright 2016 Christina Grossman. All Rights Reserved
More Examples of Radials in Nature:
Something To Think About:
So there you go, radials are another shape, or growth pattern in plants that we can teach our children about and ourselves. I will continue to say that Mathematics is everywhere. The Mathematics out in Nature is free and teaches us that there is more out there than we are taught in the classroom and there is always more than one answer to something, it just depends on how we observe for that moment in time. If you do not have plants growing where you live, print these out, or point them out to your children. Have fun with your kids outside as much as you can!
For more information about Fort Ticonderoga in New York State, especially the beautiful King’s Garden, or to donate, please go to http://www.fortticonderoga.org