How Romanesco cauliflower forms its spiraling fractals

By altering three genes, the researchers grew a Romanesco-like head on A. thaliana . Two of those genetic tweaks hampered flower growth and triggered runaway shoot growth. In place of a flower, the plant grows a shoot, and on that shoot, it grows another shoot, and so on, says plant biologist François Parcy at CNRS in Paris. “It’s a chain reaction.”

The researchers then altered one other gene, which increased the growing area at the end of each shoot and provided space for spiraling conical fractals to form. “You don’t need to change the genetics much to get this form to appear,” says Parcy. The team’s next step, he says, “will be to manipulate these genes in cauliflower.”

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