Botanica Mathematica

a textile taxonomy of mathematical plant forms

Binary Bonsai Classified!

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I’m pleased to announce that the Binary Bonsai collection has now been classified. Here’s a little report about it but I’m saving lots of details for when we finally have an exhibition later this year.

In the autumn of 2016, Jo Macrae (NMS and Craft Reactor) and I examined 75 specimens, looking for common characteristics and significant differences. Over much tea and biscuits, we considered what the trees were made from, the techniques used, the branching structure, the colour, texture and other features of the surface.

A few specimens were in leaf or bearing fruit but most were not, so structure and surface were the place to start. A couple were “fossilized” (i.e. felted), one so distorted that full identification wasn’t possible. We also had a number of herbarium pages showing only the bark of small specimens.

The whole group was defined as the class Yarnia, all being constructed from yarn. This fell into two orders Crochetales and Knitales depending on construction stitch. Branching structures were used to classify trees at the genus level. Even binary branching and Fibonacci binary branching were present in both families. Additionally some specimens of Knitales exhibited triple branching structure. We therefore defined three genera within Knitales and two in Crochetales.

Having classified down to genus level, deciding what was a big enough difference to make something a new species was pretty tricky. We have used texture, stitch types, and different ways of colouring to separate specimens within each genus but think this may be open to further research by future scholars.

Naming the species offered an opportunity to mark the contributions of our “specimen collectors” around the world. Every tree has now been labelled and will be photographed. Even though the may not be attached to your own specimens, I hope most of you will recognise yourself in the dodgy Latin names we’ve come up with! All will be revealed in a future blog post to coincide with the still undefined exhibition(s).  Watch this space or the Ravelry group (login required) for details.

Author: Knot Unknot

Artist/maker/scientist/mathematician/communicator/etc - suffers from many ailments including "popcorn kittens"! see

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