Model of CWI and Wageningen University helps to explain flower growth

Publication date
31 Jan 2012

Researchers of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) and the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam used computer simulations to understand the development of flowers in plants. The results suggest that flower growth is a self-regulating process initiated by the transport of auxine, a growth hormone. The research was published in PLoS ONE on 23 January 2012.

When transporting auxine, plant cells prefer cells that already contain the hormone. This causes high concentration of auxine in certain cells, which results in stimulation of growth in that particular place. This self-reinforcing mechanism can also explain the pattern of flowers. In flowers the petals, sepals, stamens and pistil (s) are located in four different whorls. The positioning of the petals in the first whorl affects the position of the sepals in the second whorl, the sepals influence the position of the stamens in the third whorl, and the stamens influences the position of the pistil in the fourth whorl. The researchers are now able to simulate this process.
Modelling the growth of flowers helps researchers understand growth mechanisms and the role of the position of various parts of the flower during development. The researchers used the open source software VirtualLeaf (, developed partly at CWI, for their models. Computer simulations like this are used by experimental biologists to develop new hypotheses and experiments.

This research is made possible by the Netherlands Consortium for System Biology (NCSB) and the Netherlands Institute for System Biology (NISB)