May 31, 2010
The flower depicted above is called Nigella (Nigella damascene), sometimes known as "love-in-a-mist." I noticed these attractive flowers when visiting Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary in Charlotte, North Carolina several weeks ago. Nigella is an annual flower, with thread-like foliage above each flower. The colors can vary from pink seen here, to blue, purple or even greenish-white. The plant itself was about 2 ft (61 cm) in height, while the flower was just over an inch (3 cm) in diameter. What struck me first was its beautiful but imperfect pentagonal symmetry (as evidenced by the foliage). Nature likes to tease us a little by departing sometimes only slightly from exact mathematical symmetry. But think how stark the world, and science, would be if everything could be neatly packaged into perfect geometrical patterns. It’s the little departures from pre-existing models that generate new science – and new understanding and appreciation for the world around us!