Roses are red — but they don’t need to be, if you know how to use food dyes and Fibonacci

A rainbow rose

A rain­bow rose. Photo by Ryan Amos

Valentine’s Day is here and unless you share the cyn­ics’ view that this is a hol­i­day inven­ted by the flower industry, you might set off to buy a bunch of flowers for your other half on the day. Next time, why not do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent this year and cre­ate your own unique flowers?

The pro­ced­ure is very simple (but requires plan­ning ahead!). You will need white flowers and water stained with food col­our­ing. Cut off the flower stems at an angle and leave them in a glass with the dyed water to soak up the fluid over night.

If you are a bot­any ninja and up for a ser­i­ous chal­lenge, have a go at cre­at­ing a rain­bow rose. Peter van de Werken (‘River Flowers’) developed the tech­nique based on his know­ledge about plant phyl­lo­taxy. Rose petals are arranged in a  Fibonacci spiral. This means that petal num­ber one and six will be on the same ver­tical ima­gin­ary line. When you cut the stem ver­tic­ally into four equal parts and trans­fer each end into a dif­fer­ent glass with col­oured water, the petals will take up the dye depend­ing on their pos­i­tion in the spiral. Pretty, isn’t it?

“Rainbow Rose” ref­er­ence: António A. Monteiro, Roberto Lopez and Jules Janick. “Gilding the Lilies: Rainbow Roses and Confetti Poinsettias”. Chronica Horticulturae — Volume 48, Number 1, 2008. 

Photo: Rainbow Rose by Ryan Amos. Licenced under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.

Anne Osterrieder.

Anne Osterrieder is Research & Science Communication Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, UK. A plant cell biologist, she loves the Golgi apparatus, lasers and cats. She has her own blog at Plant Cell Biology.

3 Responses

  1. Great trick. Too bad my girl­friend likes only red roses! But I will think about this trick next year. It is some­thing dif­fer­ent and it can be a great suprise.

    What is inter­est­ing, I trade with Fibonacci num­bers and use them every day to make my fin­an­cial deci­cions, but I didn’t know that rose petals are arranged in a Fibonacci spiral.
    I know of course that we can find Fibonacci num­bers in nature, but you have suprised me with that roses and Fibonacci num­bers :) That is why I will tweet about this to my readers :)

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