The Creation and Variety in Leaves
No matter which part of a leaf we examine, we see evidence of an infinite intelligence and artistry. When a leaf is viewed from the outside, its shape and structures display a design aimed at a particular purpose. For example, the leaf needs to remain flat in order to receive the maximum amount of solar rays but for that to be possible, the leaf must have a special design. Comparing the leaf to a piece of typing paper will give a better idea about its design, essential for the leaf to retain its flattened contour.
When you want to hold a newspaper or piece of paper straight, the paper bends over and folds in two. To keep the paper rigid, you have to impart a slight crease or bend from one side to the other. Leaves also need such a crease in order to stay flat.
Leaves can stay flat and obtain the maximum benefit from solar rays by the main vessels in their structures known as midribs. These vessels pass through the center of the leaf and connect it back to the stem. Moreover, other veins also emerge from the midrib and spread to the surface of the leaf. The midrib and these lateral veins constitute a flexible skeleton that permits the leaf to remain relatively rigid.1
How did every one of the infinitely many leaves on Earth come to have the venous system necessary for them remain rigid? It is of course impossible for a leaf to realize on its own accord how it can make the best use of solar rays. Furthermore, it is also impossible for leaves to decide for themselves to adopt the requisite crease along their midrib or to form a venous system that will serve as a skeleton. It is definitely impossible for these developments to come about by coincidence. Therefore, the answer to the question is very simple; it is Allah Who has designed and created leaves' venous system and midrib creases.
The average leaf can be compared to a piece of limp cloth laid over the veins that serve as a mechanical support. In order for this system to function effectively, the plant also needs to expend very little energy to support the leaf's tissue at a low level. But this is simply solved, because the midrib, or main support passes down the center of the leaf, and from it, secondary supports or struts stretch from the main out to the leaf edges. It is particularly important for the leaf's weight to be balanced equally on either side of the main vein, which means the placement of that midrib is crucial for balancing the leaf's weight.2 The midrib's ability to support weight decreases with distance from where it attaches to the plant, and its leverage increases proportionally. As an analogy, if you pick up a heavy book in one hand and then extend your arm, you will find that your ability to hold the book is diminished, and that the book's apparent weight has increased. However, since the main midrib passes down the exact center of the leaf, the weight it must support is distributed equally.3 This is no ordinary phenomenon, because no such balance can come into being by chance. Can bricks possibly come together by coincidence to form a building that will not collapse? Or can any bridge remain upright if its center of gravity is not calculated before it is built? In these two examples, as in thousands of similar ones, it is impossible for matter to combine to form a specific order and equilibrium. It is Allah Who creates every entity, living or otherwise, with its particular order. Allah has created both the tiny leaf and the Earth, large enough for billions of human beings to live on, with a sublime design.
Whether something is large or small, there is never any deficiency in Allah's creation. In verses of the Qur'an it is revealed that Allah has created all things in a perfect manner and that no one can detect any deficiency in the universe He has created:
He Who created the seven heavens in layers. You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again—do you see any gaps? Then look again and again. Your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted!
In addition, there are a great many miraculous functions in a leaf's structural design. Professor Thomas Givnish, from University of Wisconsin, a researcher into the structural mechanisms of leaves, says this:
Along with mechanical structure, a great many other complex factors enter the equation in the design in leaves. Not only are leaves not triangular, but they display other characteristics.
The mathematical calculations that emerge in their sequencing is one example. Leaves are arranged in such a way as not to cast shadows over one another. As Givnish says:
Leaves' special design also changes according to their ambient climatic conditions, their life span and the likelihood of them being exposed to insect or animal attack. Consider holly as an example: Its leaves have sharp thorns along their edges. However, these thorns are mainly found on leaves in the lower parts of the plant. A thorny tip is seldom found in leaves at the top of a holly tree.
Leaves of trees and shrubs that remain green all year round have a very special design. Their needle-like structure has been created with a thick, waxy coating that prevents moisture loss when the ground freezes.
Many climbing plants, such as Evening Trumpet flower or vines, are covered with heart-shaped leaves.
Rather than grow their own sturdy stalks or stems, these plants use other plants' trunks as supports. Climbing plants must constantly angle their leaves towards the Sun. However, since the plant they climb up to will shade them from light coming from above, the plant changes place according to the most appropriate angle to its stem, rather than remaining at the same level. The leaves thus turn their surfaces in the direction of the Sun.
Another ingenious design in leaves can be seen on windy days. The surfaces of plant leaves are generally broad, letting them receive as much solar energy as possible. However, a strong wind or storm acting on these surfaces could lead to the plant bending and breaking off. Yet this seldom happens, because the leaf's structural features have been created in such a way as to reduce the wind's effects. The cellulose and fibers that serve as any plant's skeleton have a considerable ability to flex. Besides, leaves grow in the same direction with extension of plant. This helps protect against the destructive effect of the wind, as the leaf is thus able to bend in the direction of the wind without breaking.7
A second property that protects leaves is that they are able to fold inwards, along their midrib, as the wind's velocity increases. The leaf thus forms an aerodynamic, V-shaped structure that cleaves the wind like the prow of a ship does the waves. Furthermore, leaves are capable of flattening themselves against one another in order to increase the wind resistance of their collective aerodynamic structure. In other words, when the leaves along a branch lean in the direction of the wind, they do so in such a way as to lessen the force on the next leaf in line.8
In the same way that terrestrial plants have been designed to resist the wind, plants in water have also been designed so as to reduce the effect of the current to a minimum. The water's current has a similar effect to that of wind; however, thanks to their special design, underwater plants like seaweed are able to resist the power of waves and currents. These plants lack the thick, woody stems of those on land, but the roots that adhere them to rocks are very strong, and thanks to their flexible stalks and leaves, they can adjust to the force of the current. If the external force reaches an irresistible level, the plant first sacrifices its older, larger leaves. With these gone, the plant's resistance to the current decreases and permits the plant to display greater resistance.9
Though every plant species differs from all others in terms of its exact structural characteristics, most green plants produce oxygen and nutrients by making photosynthesis, and perform specific functions thanks to the various features they possess. Thanks to their special designs, some plant leaves can store quantities of water and nutrients, while others' perform defensive functions with their thorny structures, can cling to other supports with their tendrils or aerial roots, and even feed by catching small animals such as insects in complex traps. Therefore, whichever plant we examine, we see that it possesses many extraordinary features, showing the infinite knowledge and artistry in its creation. No doubt, this knowledge and artistry belong to Allah, Who has created all things, animate or inanimate, with a superior wisdom:
It is He Who sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and from the spates of the date palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in that for people who believe.
Leaves That Are Unaffected by the Desert Heat
The word "desert" brings to mind an environment in which no living thing can easily survive. Indeed, the number of species able to survive in deserts is very small. Despite these difficult conditions, however, we still encounter unimaginable miracles in the desert environment. When we examine this arid environment more closely, plants with various attributes draw our attention. With their special designs, these different varieties of plants easily manage to survive in these harsh conditions. Each one is a miracle, specially created for these harsh climatic conditions.
To overcome extreme heat and aridity, desert plants resort to two methods. The first is to employ the resistant water-retentive structure they possess, and the second is to go dormant. Arid climates do not harm these plants, thanks to their fascinating structures and special designs. Their leaves act as stems and as organs for photosynthesis, as well as for food and water storage, and also, with their thickened structures, as a defensive structure.10
Some leaves, such as those of the so-called "living stones," are experts in camouflage and imitate the rocks around which they grow. Animals' use of camouflage is a miracle one often frequents.11 Yet the use of camouflage by plants is less familiar. If you consider the kind of features that a plant able to imitate the rocks around it must possess, you can better comprehend the astounding nature of this phenomenon. First of all, this plant needs to have a perfect adaptation to a desert environment and the conditions it presents. It needs to plan a specific shape and system of defense in order to save itself from herbivores around it and at the same time, withstand the extreme heat. It must then "decide" that rocks constitute the best model for it to imitate. It must assume that if it can make itself resemble the rocks, it can easily go unnoticed, and must alter its entire physical structure in the light of this.
Clearly plants, with no intellect, consciousness or eyes, cannot take and implement such vitally important decisions for themselves. That being so, what gives them the most suitable structure and shape for the environment in which they find themselves? Evolutionists, who maintain that all living structures came into being by coincidence, claim that desert plants that imitate the rocks also came by this characteristic by chance. These claims are wholly illogical. Can any random event endow a plant with such a flawless imitative ability and the ability to store the water it most needs in desert conditions? It is clear that Allah has created these plants together with these attributes, with His most sublime knowledge and intellect.
Water Storage in Leaves
The leaves of desert plants designed to store water and foodstuffs may be cylindrical, as in the genus of stonecrops known as Sedum, or else have a prismatic shape as in the ice plant (Carpobrotus). Due to their water- storing properties, these plants that live in arid regions have a very fresh appearance. Water is stored inside the stems or leaves in broad, thin-walled cells. These leaves' thick upper layer prevents water loss.
Another feature of desert plants' flawless design is their spherical shapes. Because since it possesses the smallest surface area, the sphere is the most efficient volume for storing water. Desert plants' thick stems, spherical shapes and pores that are closed during the day and open at night comprise a structure that reduces water loss due to evaporation.12
Many plants store water in different places. For example, the Century plant stores it in its thick, fleshy leaves; the Cereus plant that opens at night in its underground bulb; and the cacti in their rounded stems. Plants such as the agave hold their grooved leaves open so as to catch the very infrequent rains that fall. In contrast, the leaves of plants such as Sarracenia minor that live in rainy areas, are like umbrellas, protecting the plants from excessive rain. Every plant has features appropriate to the conditions it lives in—a sign of Allah's flawless creation.
Cacti's prickly pears' surfaces are flat. On their surfaces, nearly all have ridges or rows with a large number of thorny spikes. These plants are able to expand and contract according to the level of water stored in their inner tissues.
Everyone will have seen a cactus. However, most cacti have thorns or spines protecting its water-filled stem from animals. Its waxy upper layer protects the plant by insulating the effect of sun on it and reducing evaporation. The shiny wax reflects the majority of the light that falls on them; some are covered with white hairs to reflect more solar rays. In addition to their beauty, the features of cacti are also great miracles created to serve a variety of ends.
There is a plan, design and purpose in every component of a cactus, from its thorns to the white hairs covering it—all important evidence that cacti cannot have come into being by chance, but were designed by a superior Intelligence.
Some species of cacti, especially the Window Leaves plant, bury their entire bodies just beneath the ground, protruding only the tips of their leaves above the surface. The tips of the leaves are transparent, yet further down, the leaves contain green cells with chlorophyll. These cells, arranged in the form of long lines, capture the light entering from the leaf tips to perform the process of photosynthesis.13 As a result of their very special design, the plant reduces water loss to a considerable extent and hides from the blazing sun by remaining largely underground. It has no difficulty surviving in an environment that many living things could not endure for any length of time.
In addition to their many other attributes, desert plants have been created to be exceedingly resistant to drought conditions. For example, the American pygmy-cedar tree Peucephyllum and the plant Capparis spinosa, which can absorb a little moisture at night and remain green under even the most arid conditions, are completely resistant to drought. Many bushes and trees can also withstand drought, because their resistant leaves possess a number of features. Some like the Paloverde, for example, have very small leaves. Other leaves are needle- or bouquet-shaped; thanks to their small size, a reduced surface area is exposed to the drying rays of the Sun.14
The leaves of some short-lived plants have pores on only one side, usually their top. This design prevents water loss through evaporation, particularly under conditions of intense wind. Other leaves have pores on both surfaces, which absorb moisture from the air, especially during foggy conditions.
In some plants, especially Manzanita, the leaves are supported in such a way as to remain perpendicular. The surface areas are thus less exposed to the Sun, and water loss is reduced. Paloverde, which has only vestigial leaves that appear briefly in spring, performs its photosynthesis in the smooth, bright-green branches and twigs. That is because the possession of too many leaves in a desert environment means more water evaporating.
As you have seen, plants that resist the desert climate possess a number of different precautionary measures against the heat. It is clear that plants cannot take these precautionary measures separately from one another, since plants lack the necessary consciousness, reason and information. It is Allah Who creates every plant with the most appropriate and matchless features for the environment in which it exists.
How Desert Plants Remain Dormant
So far we have reviewed examples of plants whose special structures let them withstand drought and aridity. However, we briefly mentioned another method of withstanding the desert environment: remaining dormant. Species that implement this method are known as ephemeral plants. They generally live as adults for less than a year, surviving the lack of water by remaining dormant in seed form and then sprouting very quickly in the wake of a rain. Their sprouts grow very rapidly. Flowering takes place in a very brief time thereafter, and thus the plant's entire life cycle can progress from the seed to the seed-production stage in a matter of just a few weeks.
Rainfall in the desert is irregular, and undependable. If the seeds of ephemeral plants were all to sprout after a single rainfall and then wither during the subsequent drought, their species would become extinct. Yet most of these plants possess mechanisms that ensure that the seeds sprout only after receiving a large, soaking quantity of rain. These plants possess a property known as seed polymorphism, which is the ability to vary the time of their seeds' sprouting. In addition, a natural chemical in the seeds retards their germinating. When water first reaches the seed, its rising to the surface stage is completed. However, this protective substance must be thoroughly neutralized if the seed is to sprout—which takes place with the seed's second contact with water. But if this second encounter does not take place—in other words, if it does not soon rain again—then the seed will not sprout. Therefore, seeds require two separate stages; the first causes the seeds to float to the surface, and the second rinses away the substance that prevents germination. Sprouting occurs only after this has taken place.
The seeds of other ephemerals—for instance, those of the bitter melon—sprout only in the dark. The external coating of the seeds changes after a series of wetting and drying out and permits oxygen to freely enter the seed embryo. The combination of these essential factors causes the seed to sprout, but only after being buried and receiving moisture a number of times.
In the germination of these plants, there is a flawless design, plan and calculation. Everything, with every stage, is determined in advance. All precautionary measures are taken against possible adverse conditions in order that the seeds should not sprout needlessly.
So to whom belongs the intelligence and knowledge that determine this system for the formation of ephemeral plants, and designs for them in the most ideal form for the conditions they live in? The plant's cells? The seed itself? Or did this immaculate and complete system come into being by chance? The illogical nature of these questions is obvious. These plants, with the ideal characteristics for their habitats, are the sublime creation of Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
Another group of desert plants shed their leaves during times of drought. As their source of water declines, these plants immediately shed their small leaves. One example of this is the plant Ocotillo. This plant goes dormant during drought conditions and remains in that state until it rains. But when rain falls, it immediately begins to sprout a new set of leaves. Some bushes possess this feature also; but they do not become dormant, because they are sufficiently resistant to live on the water and nutrients stored in their special underground rhizomes, until water in the environment increases again. These rhizomes develop horizontally under the ground and live for a long time.15
The desert plants we have examined as a whole so far present a most impressive picture. Some are equipped with special systems and structures in order to survive in the desert, by storing water, camouflaging themselves or becoming dormant. Some use various chemical means to stop their seeds sprouting and as we have seen, employ a great variety of methods of protection against a habitat where the greatest obstacles and difficulties prevail. The sublime designs of these plants, thriving in an environment that humans would imagine to be completely inhospitable, once again reveal the infinite knowledge and artistry of Allah.
The Fascinating Leaves of Plants in Watery Habitats
Plants that live in lakes, by the sea, in salt water and marshes with high salt levels encounter similar difficulties to those in deserts. But as is the case with all living things, plants living in such regions have been created with characteristics totally suited to their habitats. These plants' leaves and stem structures, the greater part of which lies under water, have been specially designed to permit them to survive under such conditions. For example, plants that live in salt water have thick, leathery leaves much like desert-dwelling plants. This gives them the ability to store high levels of fresh water in their tissues without being damaged by excessive salt.
In the brackish regions where plants such as samphire, and seablite live, they are frequently exposed to flooding, which causes a large quantity of salt to enter the roots of the plant, which will ordinarily be harmful. Yet these plants are not harmed by excessive salt because they have special glands that remove the excess salt from their tissues. Plants that live under such conditions are known as halophytes.16
Salt marsh plants such as the glasswort are regularly surrounded by sea water. Plants of this kind survive thanks to letting their leaves remain on the water's surface, buoyed by the presence of special air-filled structures underneath. Giant Amazonian lilies are one of the species that possess such leaves.
The roots of plants that live in water or in water-logged soil are completely saturated, which raises the question of how such plants can obtain air. Like the other plants we've discussed, species that live with their roots in water possess the ideal characteristics for their environment. For example, a tissue known as aerenchyma permits those parts of marsh plants that remain under water to obtain oxygen. Air pockets in these tissues has the ability to expand. In plants such as the water lily and Elodea, oxygen is transmitted from the trunk and leaves, those parts of the plant that lie outside the water, to the lower regions under water.17
As we have seen, these plants could not survive without the air pockets in their roots and the systems that carry oxygen down to them from the outside. It is not possible for any plant to develop a tissue that widens air pockets by itself. Neither is it possible for such a structure to develop gradually and by chance. A plant living in marshes or periodically flooded by water has no time to wait for chance phenomena to develop, over the course of millions of years, a system that will carry oxygen down to the plant's roots. That is because it cannot survive and reproduce in the absence of that system! This means that this plant's oxygen-carrying and storage system must have existed, fully formed and perfect, from the moment the plant itself was first created.
This can take place only as the result of a magnificent, flawlessly planned and executed creation, not through blind coincidences.
The Aeration System: Another Miracle in the Leaf
Some plants live with not just their roots under water, but large parts of their stems as well. The roots of these plants, which never contact the air at all, can sometimes lie more than 4 meters (13 feet) deep. It is impossible for oxygen to reach such depths by simple means. However, Allah has created the most appropriate system for these plants. The flawless aeration system in these plants, whose roots lie deep down under the water, can be compared to the structure of a skyscraper 300 meters (984 feet) tall and consisting of a hundred floors. In such high-rise buildings, one of the most important problems that engineers need to solve is that of aeration. Such buildings employ highly advanced technologies to resolve this difficulty. Many details—such as the air-conditioning spaces and their dimensions, the regions where the air conditioning units are to be installed, how fresh air is to be distributed to the different floors, and how used air is to be extracted from them—are all calculated while the building is still in the planning stages, and plans for the project are drawn up accordingly.
Certain regions in the blueprint are left empty in such a way as to form air shafts during the building's construction, and air conditioning pipes can later be installed into them. Finally, the air-conditioning machinery itself and special air-conditioning systems are assembled on the various floors, and especially on the roof.
… Allah shows favor to mankind but most of them are not thankful.
(Surah Yunus: 60)
When a plant's structures are closely examined, they can be seen to employ air conditioning systems within themselves far superior to those used in modern skyscrapers. This, of course, is a great miracle. The fact that an air conditioning system, an architectural and engineering marvel, is built into the internal structure of a plant devoid of any intelligence proves that the plant must have been created by a highly superior Intelligence.
The "engines" of this air-conditioning system are the leaves. Just as in a physical system, some structures must draw in clean air while other vents will expel the used air. Once again, the requisite planning has been carried out for a complete air-conditioning system to exist, and there is a perfect division of labor among the leaves. Younger leaves serve as the motors that draw fresh air into the plant, and older leaves expel the dirty air.
However, the presence of these engines on their own is not sufficient. There is also a need for air channels established in line with a specific plan: While fresh air is drawn in by the younger leaves, it must also be transported to those areas in the plant where it is needed. To fulfill this requirement, microscopic air-conditioning channels have been installed inside the plant to transport air to its very furthest reaches.
Now, to witness the flawless design in Allah's creation from even closer up, let's examine the aeration system in the plant and how the young leaves function…The job of the young leaves is to absorb the air when the wind blows, and that of old leaves is to release the air to the outside. The working system in this inhalation and exhalation system is exceedingly complex.
As water evaporates from leaves of this kind, the leaves' temperature falls. Since wind increases evaporation, the temperature of the leaf thus falls even further—a process that becomes even more effective in strong winds. However, this cooling is not felt to the same extent in all parts of the leaf. The central regions of the leaf stay warmer than its external surfaces. According to researchers, when this temperature differential is greater than 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, it triggers the oxygen-absorbing process.
The triggering takes place in this way: when the inside of the leaf is magnified, the tissues of young leaves that carry out photosynthesis can be seen, along with very small pores leading to the loosely packed tissues underneath them. When the dimensions of these pores reach 0.7 micrometers (1 micrometer equals one millionth of a meter), and when the temperature in the leaf rises above 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, gasses begin to flow from the cold region in the leaf to the warmer region. In this way, oxygen is drawn towards the inside of the plant.
This process is known as thermo-osmosis. The greater the temperature differential, the more gas is absorbed into the leaf. For example, the highest level has been measured in the Amazonian lily at 30 liters (8 gallons) of gas an hour.
Thermo-osmosis is based on a physical law known as Knudsen diffusion. Under normal conditions, the gasses in two separate sections will pass freely through a porous barrier. However, small pores less than 1 micrometer in size will prevent this passage. Gasses seeking to establish equilibrium in terms of temperature then flow from the cold region to the warmer one. However, small pores less than 1 micrometer in size will prevent this passage.
The thermo-osmosis process draws air inside the plant with such a powerful pressure that gas can sometimes be seen rising from the roots in the form of bubbles. This inhalation/exhalation phase is completed by gasses being released by the old leaves. These old leaves no longer carry air inside them. Because their pores have widened more than necessary, they can no longer hold onto the gasses, which thus depart to the outside.
As you see, every feature of a plant is of vital importance, and clearly each one has been calculated and designed to serve a specific purpose.
This aeration system is not only important in terms of keeping underwater roots alive, but also ecologically. Sediments that accumulate at the bottom of deep water generally are poor in oxygen. They therefore harbor anaerobic bacteria that produce gasses such as iron hydroxide that are harmful to plants. But water plants neutralize these gasses by oxidizing them with the oxygen that they release from their roots. Thanks to this oxygen leakage, the soil around their roots becomes suitable for living things to live in, and thus the bottom of the lake or river is cleansed. This constitutes part of the complex system that directly affects the entire ecosystem on Earth and allows life to survive.
As you have seen, there are flawlessly inter-related systems in even the smallest details of creation. Each of these details shows those who can reflect the magnificence of the omniscient Allah's creation:
It is He Who made the Earth a cradle for you and threaded pathways for you through it and sent down water from the sky by which We have brought forth various different types of plants. Eat and pasture your cattle. Certainly there are Signs in that for people of sound intellect.
(Surah Ta-Ha: 53-54)
Leaves That Are Impervious to the Cold
Much of the Northern Hemisphere is covered with forests. These forests, generally consisting of coniferous trees, are generally exposed to cold climatic conditions. In order for plants to be able to withstand this climate, they need to possess characteristics different from those of other species. For example, in winter, the roots cannot absorb water from the frozen soil. Trees living under these conditions—evergreens especially—have to be able to withstand this winter drought. This resistance is provided by the leaves of these evergreen conifers, which are frequently hard and strong. These leaves' waxy surface reduces water loss by way of evaporation, and that prevents the leaves from falling or withering due to lack of internal water pressure. In addition, most of these needle-shaped coniferous leaves are well able to withstand freezing.
Just considering this point alone—that the leaves' wax-like coating substance prevents them from suffering water loss—will show clear proofs of creation.
Like all living things, leaves are made up of cells. Like all other cells, the cells that comprise a plant's leaves are unconscious and unthinking. The waxy covering on the leaves is also generated by unconscious cells. Yet the leaf seems varnished from the outside, possessing a smooth, waxy layer that looks as if it had been brushed on.
The millions of cells comprising the leaf must therefore have decided to come together to cover the leaf's external surface with this waxy layer. They must then have covered the leaf in a protective layer by working together in the greatest harmony and with enormous care. Any rational person considering this will ask the following questions:
How did the unconscious cells that comprise the leaf come to think of producing this waxy layer?
With what intelligence, information and ability did they so carefully cover the leaf surface, leaving no roughness, spillage or uncovered places?
How do the leaves know that this waxy layer will protect them from the cold?
There is of course only one answer to these questions. The leaf, and the cells that comprise it, have been created by Allah, and all the information necessary has been written in these cells' genetic programs by Allah. In the light of these data, cells produce a waxy substance with an ideal formula, and secrete it in ideal proportions. Thus the surface of the leaf comes to be covered in a completely smooth waxy layer. Unlike those trees that shed their leaves in autumn, these evergreen plants increase their energy by opening new leaves every spring. When the air becomes warm enough, they can perform photosynthesis and concentrate their energy resources for the short summer months.
Another point to be considered is the vertical cone shape assumed by coniferous trees. This, like every other detail in nature, has been specially created.
In the world of architecture and civil engineering, and especially in the construction of roofs, one of the most crucial points that needs to kept in mind is the weight of fallen snow. Roofs that under normal conditions bear merely their own weight and that of the wind are exposed to much heavier weights in the event of heavy snowfall.
In designing industrial structures and bridges in particular, the effect of any snow loads has to be included in the calculations. For that reason, roofs are typically constructed by giving them a special peaked angle, and load-bearing systems are reinforced by adding in the possible snowfall. In countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which lie covered in snow for a large part of the winter, almost all house roofs are peaked and are built bearing these engineering calculations in mind. Otherwise, the weight of the snow would cause severe damage to the roof and possibly collapse the building.
When you examine the shapes of coniferous trees, you'll see that these trees have already taken the precautionary measures against the weight of snow taken by engineers using mathematical calculations. The angle formed by the tree's conical shape permits the snow falling onto the tree to slide off easily. That means excessive snow does not collect on the tree, and its branches are prevented from breaking. To whom does this intelligence belong, that calculates the effect of the weight of snow on the branches, and that ensures that the branches grow at just the right angle to reduce the snow load to a minimum?
It is of course Allah Who bestows this design on the tree and creates the entire tree, its cells and the soil from nothing.
There is yet another marvelous aspect to this design. The tree's shape does not shed all the snow that falls on it. It permits enough snow not to pose a weighty danger to the branches to remain on them. This serves another purpose. The small amount of snow remaining on the twigs acts as a protective covering against the cold and prevents further water loss by reducing the amount of moisture leaving the needles.
As can be seen from the examples given so far, there are plants particular to every kind of environment. Thanks to the features they possess, these plants protect themselves against extreme heat or cold and can live in all types of environment, from arid to moist. Each of the methods these plants employ is especially designed according to the characteristics of their particular environment, and the superior design employed, as a method by one plant bears no resemblance to the ones used by any other. For example, while the cactus protects itself with thorns, stone plants use the camouflage technique. Coniferous trees do not shed their leaves, while others shed them in autumn. The list of examples could be greatly extended.
Of the more than 500,000 different types of plants in the world, about half of these are flowering plants, and not even 10% of these plants have so far been studied in detail. Of those that have, each one possesses its own unique characteristics, astounding designs and methods of survival. With this variety of different structures plants display Allah's infinite knowledge and artistry. In one verse it is stated that:
It is Allah Who created the heavens with no support—you can see them—and cast firmly embedded mountains on the earth so that it would not move under you, and scattered about in it creatures of every kind. And We send down water from the sky and make every generous species grow in it.
Climbing and creeper plants have been equipped with many astonishing features. In particular, climbing plants use part of their energy to form the modified leaves known as tendrils, which are a complete marvel of design.
Tendrils are elongated tentacle-like structures that are sensitive to touch. They can extend outwards like arms, and literally seek out objects that can support the plant's growing shoots. When they encounter such an object, they first analyze its stability by touch and begin to encircle it if they consider it suitable.
Many books about biology, zoology or botany refer to plant or an animal as "analyzing," "examining," or "understanding" something. Yet plants and most animals are totally devoid of any ability to analyze, understand, or decide anything at all. That being so, how do tendrils analyze an object? By what intelligence and information do they know whether or not something is worth clinging to? It is the plant's cells carry out this analysis. How do cells, too small to be seen with the naked eye and lacking brains, information and reason, feel the need to analyze things? And then, what equipment and what measures do they employ? Each of these questions shows that Allah has created every living thing with the characteristics it requires, and that it lives in accordance with Allah's commandments.
Recently it was discovered, though only partially, why tendrils perform this astonishing activity. Tendril-bearing vines generally live in thickly forested regions, and climb to reach the sunlight so that they can photosynthesize and grow, reaching greater heights than the plants that support them and thus absorbing more sunlight. This both increases their energy intake and also permits their flowers to be fertilized under more advantageous conditions.18
These plants have different methods of climbing specially created for that task. A climber's simplest method is to wind itself around a support. This support may be the stem of another plant or other long, solid body. The way that a tip of a vine circles as it lengthens is due to the effect of this twining process. The mechanisms produced by the different chemicals and organic structures inside the plant permit it to perceive light, gravity, touch and heat. Again thanks to these same mechanisms, the plant reacts, generally in the form of growth.
The way that a shoot grows with circular bends takes place under the effect of this touch. As soon as it touches a support it makes a growth move in the opposite direction to the surface it comes into contact with. That is because the surface the shoot leads it to fold inwards. Thus the shoot begins to grow by winding around the support. Moreover, it grows longer and faster from the first corner it touches. Growth is so rapid that it can even be noticed by the naked eye after just a few hours.
The plant employs a most intelligent method. If it were to grow straight up without clinging to a tree, within a few meters it would be unable to bear its own weight and would bend and fall back to earth. The only way for it to reach greater heights without breaking is to have its weight borne by winding itself around some support. So how does the plant know this? Furthermore, plants all over the world have been growing in just that way, for millions of years, always finding something to wrap themselves around. The way that every vine use this ideal behavior is clearly a miraculous property that these plants have possessed since their original creation.
When a vine's growth around another body is examined through time-lapse photography, one can perceive a very conscious and aware type of trial-and-error behavior. Because of these characteristics, vines have been the subject of myth and legend since the very earliest historical times. A plant must impress human beings if it remains fixed in the ground, unseeing and unhearing, yet examines its surroundings by spreading out its tendrils, becomes acquainted with those surroundings by touch, and makes use of their most available supports. People who saw plants carrying out such apparently conscious behavior believed that inside the plant there must exist some intelligent and conscious entity that controlled the actions of these tendrils and shoots—and made up stories and myths about these plants to explain their observations.
Indeed, it's still astonishing how an unconscious plant can examine its surroundings as if it could actually feel them, and then decide to cling onto a nearby surface. These plants' sense of touch is so powerful that researchers investigating Bryonia dioica, a species of wild squash, discovered that the plant's small touch-sensitive structures were actually more sensitive than the human fingertip.19 Therefore, who causes the plant to engage in such conscious behavior? The answer is evident: it is Allah Who designs the plant, arranges all its actions and mechanisms, and has created it with His infinite knowledge.
A carnivorous plant is one that attracts creatures such as insects that catches, kills and then allows its prey to decay, absorbing those nutrients that will be useful. The leaves of carnivorous plants can be shaped like pouches, funnels, ewers, or even tacos. They can trap insects, serve as homes for them, or else store water.
Many plants implement variations on these strategies. For instance, some plants attract creatures such as insects and birds to help fertilize them. Other plants, such as the orchid and the water lily, trap such fertilizing insects for a short space of time, without actually consuming them. They use these insects solely for pollination, but are not carnivorous plants, because they let these animals go free.
Carnivorous plants use their modified leaves for capturing prey. One of the most interesting of these plants is Dischidia rafflesiana. Though not regarded as totally carnivorous, this plant implements some of the methods employed by truly carnivorous plants. Large colonies of ants nest in its pitcher-shaped leaves; the plant feeds them and uses the nitrogen it obtains from the ants' waste products as a nutrient. The ants both enjoy a ready-made nest and also keep the plant free of any harmful organisms. Moreover, the rainwater Dischidia collects in its sacs is absorbed by supplementary roots on the inner surface of each sac.20
Another truly carnivorous plant, Pinguicula (butterwort) trap insects that land on a thready secretion that their slippery, sticky leaves emit.21 In the secretion, such enzymes as acid phosphatase, protease and lipase enable the insect to be digested by breaking it down.
The sticky leaves of Drosera bear long and short hairs that contain a red pigment. An insect that touches the short hairs in the middle of the leaf springs a trap when this signal is transmitted to the long hairs. As if it were the palm of a hand, the leaf folds over the insect, and then digests it.
All plants move to a certain extent, but the movements of carnivorous plants occur quickly and efficiently. Since plants lack muscular systems, carnivorous plants manage this by using two separate mechanisms. The first sort of mechanism is seen in the Venus fly trap, which uses a change in water pressure. This system is triggered when the hairs on its leaves are touched: Cells on the inside wall transfer water to the external cells. This forces the leaf to fold over in less than a minute. The second kind of movement is supported by cell development.
The tendrils of the Sundew bend inwards towards the prey, because the cells on the outside of the tendrils swell up more than those on the inner. The insects are drawn to the tendrils by the scent emitted by substances secreted on the end of the tendrils and get trapped by a sticky "dewy" substance there. When the trap goes into action, the longer tendrils on the outside close like a cage over the shorter ones in the middle, trapping the insect inside. The insect is then digested by means of various enzymes inside the "dew."
What does it mean, for a plant to prepare a special trap to catch insects for fertilizer? First of all, how does a plant sense the need to supply itself with nitrogen by developing such an unfamiliar means of trapping insects?
Evolutionists maintain that carnivorous plants acquired this characteristic as the result of natural phenomena that took place by chance. But what kind of chance event can endow a plant with hair-trigger leaves and the enzymes it needs to digest an insect? Furthermore, every carnivorous plant has entirely different characteristics appropriate to the habitat in which it lives. Therefore, Drosera, for example would need to have evolved through specific stages before becoming an efficient insect-trapper. It would first have to identify the insects and flies hovering around it and then determine which scents and smells attracted them, their anatomical structures and how they might be digested. Later still, it would need to explore a means to trap these fast-moving creatures where they settle.
But then it would encounter an even greater difficulty: The plant would need to radically alter its own chemical and anatomical structure in line with the data it obtained. In other words, the plant would need pigments to change its color and new secretions to alter its scent. In addition, it would also have to design a trap from which the fly could not escape after landing on it. After carrying out the requisite advance planning studies it would then have to design, one by one, sticky hairs, a bowl with a slippery surface and a bottom filled with water, a cover to complete the trap and the triggers to set it in motion. It would also have to consider how it could digest the insects' corpses and determine the necessary enzymes for doing so quickly.
Any rational person can see how irrational the above scenario is. Like all other plants, carnivorous species possess no brain nor eyes, mind nor consciousness. Such a complex design cannot be created even by scientific experts working together on the subject, let alone by a mere plant. As is plain to see, this superior design was brought into being by Allah, the Creator Who creates from nothing, with His infinite knowledge and might.
Not even the most intelligent beings on Earth can create anything without a previous model. Artists paint and scientists draw on what already exists. Yet our Almighty Lord creates with no previous model before Him. This is set out in a verse from the Qur'an:
The Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something,
The Leaves We Eat
Contrary to what most people think, providing the necessary oxygen for life is not the only function of leaves. A significant part of what we eat, drink and inhale is also produced by leaves. The vegetables whose leaves and stalks we eat and the beverages with various aromas and flavors, steeped from dried leaves that we drink are important parts of our daily diets. In addition to being a food source containing vitamins such as C, A, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid, leafy vegetables offer varying amounts of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium. Enriched with the fiber in their structure, and containing little fat and few calories, vegetables are specially created for a healthy human diet. That is why doctors regard the consumption of fruit and vegetables as essential for good health. As blessings created for human beings, many of the plants found in nature contain substances used in the treatment of various ailments, from headaches to cancer.
Some 20 amino acids serve as building blocks in the human body. The body is unable to synthesize eight of these on its own, for which reason they have to be absorbed through the foods we eat. All vegetables contain these amino acids in varying degrees. With their structures specially created for the human body, these plants have no side effects and do no harm when consumed properly. They merely bestow health and meet our dietary needs.
The leaves we eat every day, the flowers that adorn our tables and delight us with their appearance, have been specially designed, both in terms of shape and flavor. The rich leaves in vegetables such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea), for example, retain their freshness for long periods. Even if the outer leaves wilt, it takes a long time for the inner ones to do so. There are large quantities of calcium and Vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and B12 in such plants. In addition they contain carbohydrate, cellulose, protein and useful salts that are essential for human body also they are low in calories.22
Another example of the healthful leaves that we eat is spinach, which contains high levels of Vitamins A, B1, B2, C and K, substances such as proteins and cellulose, and large quantities of iron.23 No matter which vegetable one takes as an example—chard, purslane, lettuce, artichoke, cauliflower or broccoli—all are marvels of design with their shapes, ease of cultivation and nutrient-storage capacity. In addition, each one is a nutritional blessing with its characteristic flavors and contents that have been specially created for human beings.
Along with these vegetables we eat, there are also leaves we use to add flavors to whatever we eat and drink. A large number of these leaves serve as special natural medicines created for us by Allah. For instance, parsley is one of these, rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Thyme is another scented dried leaf which has been used very often against various ailments and infectious diseases since very ancient times.
Modern research has shown that thyme is an antiseptic, whose oil is a powerful germ killer. Thyme oil, known as thymol, is widely employed in the manufacture of drugs. In addition to its other nutritional properties, thyme is used in the treatment of flu, colds and angina, as well as improving the appetites of sick children and as a restorative for convalescents.24 There are so many therapeutic herbs—including bay, basil, tarragon, dill, marjoram and mint—that encyclopedias on the subject mention more than a thousand varieties of such plants and their superior properties. These plants, which are recently being re-evaluated, are being used in the search for cures for a variety of diseases from cancer to rheumatism, from skin disorders to hoarseness.
Leaves whose teas we drink, such as sage, camomile and bergamot, are among these plants used not just for their taste, but for their therapeutic health-giving properties. For example, sage has the Latin name of Salvia salvatrix, or life-saving herb. This plant, used as an antiseptic, soothes and prevents night sweats, flu, nervous disorders and tension.25
Plants' health-giving properties are the clearest evidence that Allah created them as a blessing for human beings. The fact that a nutrient can be eaten; stores substances that benefit only human beings; can be grown abundantly, widely and easily enough to serve all of mankind, who need not labor too hard to enjoy all its benefits are some of Allah's great miracles. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals this blessing to thinking people:
It is He Who created you. Yet among you are those who are disbeliever and those who are believer. Allah sees what you do. He created the heavens and the earth with truth and formed you, giving you the best of forms. And He is your final destination. He knows everything in the heavens and earth. He knows what you keep secret and what you divulge. Allah knows what the heart contains.
The Leaves We Smell
The Chemistry of Smell
What is the source of the pleasant smells of the herbs we eat, the flowers in our gardens, fruit and vegetables, and the greenery we consume? Scents have many effects on human nature, such as inspiring pleasant feelings, comforting people and improving their appetite. The smells created as great blessings for mankind are complex chemical compounds. Every scent consists of elements brought together in specific quantities. The substances that give plants their distinctive scents are known as essential oils and are commonly referred to by the name of the plant they come from, such as oil of roses, or oil of thyme.
Young plants produce more oils than old ones, although old plants contain more resin and thicker oils. After light fluids have evaporated, even at low temperatures, what remains is concentrated oils that do not evaporate so easily.
Research has not yet uncovered all the natural functions of these oils in plants, but it is generally agreed that they are used to attract insects. Plant oils are also used by humans to make fragrances, cosmetics, soap and detergents, and in food and flavorings.
Oils form in the green parts of plants and are carried to other tissues, particularly to the shoots and flowers, as the plant matures. When we examine how these oils come into being, we are amazed at the complex, sensitive nature of the system involved. Research has determined that plants' scent-production varies according to species, as well as season, temperature and light, and some 100 chemical compounds are employed during the process. It is thought that plants also have unique compounds that have not yet been studied, in addition to those already identified.
These compounds are manufactured in ways the likes of which can be found only in chemical laboratories. The sap transports various chemical substances to secretory glands near the rind, where these substances are combined in specific quantities by enzymes, through a mechanism which has not yet been fully understood, and different perfumes result. In other words, the secretory glands work just like chemical factories, combining different compounds. And with these chemical combinations, they give rise to the delightful aromas of the rose, linden and honeysuckle. This is a great miracle. At present, chemical engineers who manufacture perfumes, deodorants and soap scents in advanced laboratories are trying to produce delightful fragrances by imitating these same glands. Human beings possessed of reason, consciousness, education and technology seek to produce something of beauty by imitating the product of a secretory gland composed of unconscious molecules. Yet despite all their superior characteristics, no man-made scent can have the same attractive quality as the originals and can go no further than being a "good imitation" of the aromas of plants.
These scents later blend with the air by being released from the leaf surface through channels linked to the secretory tissues. Special cells undertake this function on the upper surfaces of rose, lily and lilac plants. In lavender, these cells are distributed all over the plant. Plants use very fine and sensitive secretory hairs to disseminate these perfumes. Cells at the tips of these hairs emit a fluid mixture of oil and resin that evaporates easily. When we add the internal secretory cells, secretory sacs and secretory channels to this system, we are looking at an astonishing design all squeezed into a tiny leaf. The dissemination of the plant's perfume into the air is a great miracle and source of enormous pleasure for human beings. When you enter a garden the delightful fragrance you encounter reaches you thanks to this impeccable design in the leaves. Were it not for this order in leaves, flowers could not be able to give off their scents, which would remain locked inside them.
So to whom do the power, intellect and artistry belong that tell plants to emit these fragrances and that design them in that manner? All of these sublime attributes are the work of our Lord, the infinitely compassionate and merciful.
During the production of scent, the most accurate calculations apply. Molecules with the most highly complex structures are produced during the course of this process. For instance, the Spanish jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum), makes use of 10 different compounds to produce its fragrance. The rose family uses between three and 10 compounds in scent production. The white freesia (Freesia alba) and the water lily (Nelumbo nucifera) use 10 and six, respectively. The honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) that blossoms in gardens in June uses six different chemical compounds. These chemical compounds, shown in the table overleaf, that we have difficulty in even reading, are used as a perfume and chemical formula separately by every plant, in areas too small to be seen with the naked eye. However, everywhere in the world, the same plants have been producing the same scents ever since the moment they were first created. Roses on one side of the world still smell the same as they do over on the other.
The way that plants combine some atoms, produce compounds and manufacture their fragrances as a result is a great miracle. And everywhere in the world, roses combine the same atoms to manufacture the same perfume. The slightest variation in the compound they produce, a difference of even one atom, can completely alter or even eliminate that perfume. However, they never make a mistake in the formula concerned. So who bestows this consciousness, intelligence and information, possessed only by chemical engineers on plants? Could plants all over the world have come into possession of these formulae by coincidence?
Plants have no senses with which to determine whether the fragrances they produce are attractive or effective. Neither do they possess the intelligence or the means to set up a chemical laboratory to produce perfume in a volume just a thousandth of a cubic millimeter in size. The plant's cells produce the compounds that give rise to scent. In other words, certain unconscious atoms use other atoms, just as chemical engineers do, to manufacture the world's most delightful perfumes. These atoms seem to know the characteristics of other atoms around them, the quantities in which they need to be combined, and the kind of scent they will eventually obtain, also know the environmental conditions essential for the dissemination of those scents and which living creatures will be affected by it. Indeed, they also know the entire chemical structure of the living creature they aim to attract, and thus prepare compounds that match its scent perception.
A great many plants possess these perfume laboratories. Although the world's plants are operating millions of scent laboratories, they never make a mistake while preparing chemical compounds. Therefore, one can obtain the same scent from the same flowers anywhere in the world. It is impossible for chance to account for perfect fragrances being produced by complex formulae carried out by unconscious atoms, or the aesthetic significance of the perfumes that result. Scent and the systems that produce it have been specially designed and created by Allah. In addition to all the many fragrances, the living things that detect these scents and their perceptual systems have all been created in harmony with one another. The countless fruits in the world, bananas, oranges and apples—and flowers such as the rose, tulip, gardenia and oleander that entrance us with their delightful fragrances—are all the result of this miracle.
These scents, present everywhere in the plant's leaves, blossoms, stems, roots, rhizomes and fruits, not only entrance the human soul, but also serve to attract insects for pollination, maintaining temperature and preventing water loss.
Another aspect of these fragrances, created with infinite knowledge and artistry, is the human body's response to them. Delightful perfumes have been created in harmony with our scent-perception system.
Smell and Memory
Smells can bring memories back to life—a frequent phenomenon. When a human being smells something, molecules belonging to that odor have entered the nose. Scent molecules are transported through the air at even quite low temperatures. A light wind will carry these scent molecules to the back of the nose, where they encounter a moist tissue consisting of some 5 million cells known as neurons that detect smell.
Receptors—tiny protrusions, at the end of each one of these cells—traps scent molecules. These sensors are linked to the cell interior. When a scent molecule lands on this trap, it sends a series of signals, and the requisite message thus passes from inside the cell to the olfactory center at the base of the brain, all in less than a second. These signals then leave there and head for the limbic system of the brain thought to be responsible for sensation and motivation.26
We can then determine what this resulting smell actually belongs to, and whether it's pleasant or not. Attractive smells lead to senses of pleasure. A familiar smell immediately stimulates memories regarding its source. For example, when you smell a lemon, you may think of lemonade you drank years ago, or upon smelling spices, a delicious holiday meal may come to mind. The perfume of a flower may cause one to remember the same flower in the garden of an entirely different city many years before. Plants are unaware of the consequences that may arise from chemicals or chemical compounds. Therefore, in the same way that they lack the means to decide to build the necessary facilities to manufacture these scents, they also lack the sensory organs or nerves with which to decide whether a smell is pleasant or otherwise. Also they don't know how scent perception works in human beings. It is clear each of these is the work of Allah, Lord of infinite knowledge and artistry, Who creates all things to be compatible with one another. Allah, Who created all scents and the organs that perceive them, has also created the human soul in such a way as to be affected by them.
Leaves and the Golden Ratio
When we look at the plants and trees around us, we see that their branches are covered in large numbers of leaves and in season, flowers. Looking at them from a distance, we might imagine that these branches and leaves are arranged haphazardly, at random. The fact is, however, that where the branches emerge from the stem or trunk, the sequence of the leaves on those branches and even the symmetric shapes of flowers are all established beforehand by means of fixed laws and miraculous measures. Plants have been implementing these laws to the letter ever since the day they were first created. In other words, no leaf or flower comes into being by coincidence.
Approximately how many branches a tree will have, where they will emerge, how many leaves there will be on a branch and the way these will be arranged are all determined beforehand. In addition, every plant has its own rules regarding branching and leaf order. Scientists can describe and classify plants solely in terms of these characteristic sequences. The extraordinary thing is that a poplar in China, for example, is aware of the same measures and rules as a willow in England, and implements them in the same way. Of course, it is not chance that creates these mathematical calculations unique to each plant, and in the most aesthetic manner. It is Omniscient Allah Who creates this beauty and this design with flawless calculation.
As is revealed in the Qur'an:
He to Whom the kingdom of the heavens and the earth belongs. He does not have a son and He has no partner in the Kingdom. He created everything and determined it most exactly. (Surat al-Furqan:2)
These sequences, which vary according to each variety of plant, may be circular or spiral. One of the most important consequences of this special arrangement is the way that one leaf does not cast shade on any other. The order in the arrangement of the leaves around the stem is set out in specific numbers according to what in botany is known as leaf divergence. This sequence in leaves is based on a complex calculation. If N is the number of turns from one leaf around the stem until we come to another leaf on the same plane, and if P is the number of leaves on each turn, then P/N is referred to as leaf divergence. These levels are ? in grasses, 1/3 in marsh plants, 2/5 in fruit trees (for example, apples), 3/8 in species of bananas, and 5/13 in bulbous plants.27
The way that every tree from the same species implements the ratio set out for its own species is a great miracle. How, for example, does a banana tree know about this ratio and act upon it? According to this calculation, when you start from one leaf and take 8 turns around it, you will come to another leaf on the same plane. And you will encounter three leaves on these turns. Wherever you may go, from South Africa to Latin America, the ratio will remain the same. Just this ratio in the arrangement of leaves is significant evidence that living things did not come into existence by coincidence, but that they were created in line with an exceedingly complex calculation, plan and design. It is Allah, the Lord of sublime knowledge and wisdom, Who encodes such a ratio in the genetic make-up of living things and creates this information and feature for them.
One of the most frequently encountered arrangements in trees is pairs of leaves and branches that emerge exactly opposite one another. After the seed sprouts, it opens up two rudimentary leaves, which leaves are set out 180 degrees opposite one another. The two leaves that sprout above these first two also grow opposite one another and at right angles to the first pair, for the greatest possible distribution between them. In this way, there are now four leaves spaced every 90 degrees on the stalk. In other words, if we look at this branch from above, we see that the leaves are so arranged as to constitute a square, and that the upper leaves thus do not shade the lower two.28
This is a sight we are quite familiar with. However, most people never think about why it is that seeds germinate up in this way. The fact is, however, that this is the result of planning and design. The aim behind it is to prevent leaves from shading one another and to enable them all to make maximum use of sunlight.
The more complex spiral form is also often to be seen. To observe this spiral action in plants, tie a thread to the base of one leaf and then extend the thread to the branches and knots, make a loop around the base of every leaf you come to, and keep the curves as regular as possible. Using this method, you will see that each leaf on an elm or lime tree is 180 degrees away from the neighbouring leaf on the branch; thus the thread will turn halfway round the branch for every next leaf. Leaves on beech trees are set 120 degrees apart, with 1/3 turns per leaf. The ratio for apple trees are 144 degrees and 2/5 turns, and for black pine, 5/13 turns. If you have an interest in mathematics, you will see that these exact figures cannot be the work of chance, and that each unit is the total of those preceding it (as shown below). Each two numbers exhibit the same simple calculation: 1, 1, 2 (1+1), 3 (1+2), 5 (2+3), 8 (3+5), 13 (5+8), 21 (8+13), 34 (13+21), 55 (21+34), 89 (34+55), 144 (55+89), 233 (89+144), 377 (144+233), and so on.29 This special progression is known as a Fibonacci series, named after the mathematician Fibonacci who discovered it. This rule embodies aesthetic perfection, and is used as a basic measure in such disciplines as painting, sculpture and architecture. This same sequence is frequently encountered in nature, and serves as an important key to understanding the fine calculation and design in plants.
Ratios beyond 3/8 can be found in seaweed, cabbage, or in the arrangements of seeds on the head of a sunflower, which go in spirals in both directions. The florets of these plants turn in spirals as they circle around the center from right or left, and the number of seeds per turn in the spirals is determined according to the Fibonacci series. For example, the center of a daisy uses three consecutive fractions: 13/34, 21/55 and 34/89. In other words, the number of florets in each rotation around the center, and the angles involved, are all determined beforehand.30 The Fibonacci series appears very frequently in nature. The fractions produced using these numbers give us what is known as the Golden ratio. In other words, when we write down the consecutive fractions in the Fibonacci numbers, as shown below, the divisions that result possess this Golden ratio, signifying complete aesthetic perfection: 1/1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/5, 5/8, 8/13, 13/21, 21/34, 34/55, 55/89 . . . .
As we have seen, the sequence obtained by this means matches the consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci series. We see this sequencing in pine cones (5/8, 8/13), on pineapples (8/13), in the centers of daisies (21/34) and in sunflowers (21/34, 34/55, 55/89) in the numbers of righthand and lefthand spirals. The ratios emerging as a result imparts aesthetic beauty to flowers, trees, seeds, sea shells and a great many other living things in nature.
The place occupied in nature by the Golden ratio is by no means limited to this, but also manifests itself in the ideal leaf angles. As we know, plant leaves are arranged to make the maximum use of solar rays. For example, the angle between the leaves in a plant with a 2/5 leaf divergence is:
2 x 360 degrees / 5 = 144 degrees.31
There are more numerical miracles in leaves. The surfaces of leaves also have designs that can be understood as the result of specific mathematical calculations. The vein from the center of a leaf (or midrib), and the smaller vessels extending from it to the outer edges of the leaf, and the tissues in between that are nourished by these, all endow the leaf with a distinctive shape and structure. Although leaves come in countless different shapes, they still preserve these same precise measurements.
The fact that leaves are arranged and shaped according to specific mathematical formulae is one of the most convincing proofs that they have been specially designed. The sensitive measurements and balance we see in a plant's molecules and in its DNA also appear in the plant's external appearance. In addition to providing such vital functions as receiving maximum benefit from sunlight, these formulae bestow great beauty on the plant, and present an extraordinary picture when combined with the colors resulting from combinations of specific arrangements of molecules. This Golden Ratio is an aesthetic rule well known to and used by artists. Works of art produced in line with it possess an aesthetic appeal. The plants, flowers and leaves designed in accordance with this rule—in turn, imitated by human artists—are all examples of Allah's sublime creative artistry.
Allah reveals in the Qur'an that He has created all things to a measure. Some of the relevant verses are:
As for the Earth, We stretched it out and cast firmly embedded mountains in it and made everything grow in due proportion on it.
… Allah has appointed a measure for all things.
… Everything has its measure with Him.
… Allah takes account of everything.
2. Steven Vogel, Cats' Paws and Catapults :Mechanical Worlds of Nature and the People, New York, 1998, pp. 60-61.
4. Lynn Dicks, "The Sinister side of the holly and the ivy," New Scientist, Vol. 2218, 25 December 1999.
6. Bitkiler ("Plants"), Gorsel Kitaplar ("Visual Guide Series"), Dorling Kindersley, 1996, p. 37.
7. Steven Vogel, Op. cit. pp. 94-95.
10. "Desert Plant Adaptations", http://www.desertusa.com/du%5Fplantsurv.html.
11. "Living stones and shredded leaves," http://botany.about.com/science/botany/library/weekly/aa022900b.htm.
12. "Survivors in a Hot, Dry Land", Botany, 02.04.1998, http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/webb/BOT311/Leaves/LeafShape-1.htm.
13. Kingsley R. Stern, Introductory Plant Biology, California, William C. Brown Publishers, 1991, p. 110.
14. Capparis spinosa, Mediterranean climate gardening throughout the world,
15. "Desert USA," http://www.desertusa.com/du%5Fplantsurv.html,
16. "School Botany Projects: Water & Salt," http://botany.about.com/science/botany/library/weekly/aa103100a.htm,
17. Kingsley R. Stern, Op cit., p. 52.
19. "Bitkilerin Duyulari, ("Sense of Plants")," Bilim ve Teknik ("Journal of Science and Technology"), June 2000, p, 70.
20. "The carnivorous plant FAQ,"http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq5965.html.
21. "Carnivorous Plants",http://waynesword.palomar.edu/carnivor.htm.
22. "Brassica oleracea", http://perso.wanadoo.fr/steven.piel/en_chouv.html, "Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group." http://www.leafforlife.com/PAGES/BRASSICA.HTM,
23. "Goosefoot Family", http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph31.htm#spinach.
24. Lesley Bremness, Herbs, Eyewitness Handbooks, Singapore: Dorling Kundersley, Singapore, 1997, p.132.
25. Audrey Stallsmith, "Sage: Savory and Saviour," http://www.i5ive.com./article.cfm/historical_plants/49588.
26. "A word about chemistry,"http://www.icr.org/goodsci/bot-9709.htm.
27. Dr. Sara Akdik, Botanik ("Botany") Istanbul: Şirketi Mürettibiye Publishing, 1961, p. 106.
28. Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries Of Life, 1978, USA, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, p. 57.
29. Guy Murchie, Ibid., pp 58-59.
30. Guy Murchie, Ibid., p. 58.
31. Dr. Sara Akdik, Botanik (Botany), Şirketi Mürettibiye Publishing, Istanbul, 1961, pp. 105-106