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Golden Ratio and Nature

One day I was walking along the Potomac River near my home and met a man who was studying one of the plants with great interest. I asked him what was so fascinating about the plant. He told me that the name of the plant is Horse Tail and that he was very curious about the sections of the stem and how they seem to follow some sort of pattern. I took one look at the stem and immediately knew what it was. Then I also realized that I had the same plant growing in the fish pond in my yard. I was anxious to get home and see if my theory was correct.



Several times in the past I have written about the Golden Ratio (also called the Golden Proportion, Golden Mean, Devine Proportion or Phi) . Its appearance in nature, design and the entire universe is uncanny. It is the division of a line segment where the ratio is 1 to 1.618. One is the shorter length and 1.618 the longer one. BUT it is also the ratio of .618 to 1 where .618 is the shorter segment and 1 the larger. This is what makes this ratio so magical.

Now I know that the mention of proportions, ratios or anything mathematical can make the eyes of most people roll back in their heads (unless you are a math geek). So, a few years ago, I designed a set of calipers for quilters that open up into these pleasing proportions of the Golden Ratio. I got them out when I returned home from my walk and took one of the Horse Hair stems from my pond and tried them out. Sure enough, when I place the calipers along one of the longer sections, the shorter piece next to it fits the proportions of the Golden Ratio and vice versa. One note, the sections at the base of the stem don’t quite fit into the ratio, but they fit more perfectly as I reached the tip of the tip of the stem. It is fascinating for me to see how this proportion shows up in so many aspects of our world.



Go to the blog section of my website and do a search for Golden Ratio or Calipers and read what I have previously written about this proportion and how we can easily apply it to quilt design.

Do an internet search on the Golden Ratio and you will be amazed at what comes up about this magical phenomenon.

5 thoughts on “Golden Ratio and Nature

  1. Great post. Lovely photos.

  2. Although I live in Australia I am a member of a very large on-line US Quilting group.
    Several times I have recommended the use of the Golden Ratio tool.
    I hope that you received requests for this tool.

  3. Do you read the Sunday funnies? On Sept. 19 there was a comic strip – Macanudo – illustrating the Golden Ratio in nature. I recalled reading about it on your site and doing further research on it for a modern quilt challenge in which I drew the word “scale” and made a small modern quilt illustrating the Golden Ratio. It’s interesting the connections that one makes over time.

  4. Jenny, you’ve hit my heart with this bit on the Golden Ratio. I was an art history major (many, many years ago) and this was a specific area of the study and its application in Egyptian, Greek and Roman architecture and in Renaissance painting. Thank you…..

  5. The horsetail goes back millions of years and has a sandy particle in each node. Pioneer women used to use it to scrub pots. Lara

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