Art and Science for Life: Designing and Growing Virtual Plants with L-systems

Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz
Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4


Virtual plants are computer models that recreate the structure and simulate the development of plants. Virtual plant modeling is an interdisciplinary area combining mathematical formalisms, biological knowledge, and computer graphics techniques. An important modeling method is based on the theory of Lindenmayer systems (L-systems). At present, L-system models make it possible to: (a) accurately reproduce the structure and development of plants; (b) show how architectural parameters (e.g., branching angles, elongation rates, vigor of branches) affect the appearance of plants; (c) simulate plant physiology and investigate the effects of manipulations (e.g., pruning, bonsai techniques) or different external conditions (e.g., local light microclimate, water availability, crowding) on plant development; and (d) simulate plants not only in isolation, but also in their ecological contexts. Currently constructed research models also address the genetic basis of plant form. In horticulture, the models are potentially useful as an exploration tool, indicating desirable directions of breeding and manipulating ornamental plants for maximum visual impact, and fruit plants for maximum yield. Other applications include fundamental research and teaching of biology, and landscape design. This paper describes the current state of the L-system-based modeling methodology as supported by L-studio and Virtual Laboratory, plant modeling software developed at the University of Calgary.


P. Prusinkiewicz: Art and science for life: Designing and growing virtual plants with L-systems. In C. Davidson and T. Fernandez (Eds:) Nursery Crops: Development, Evaluation, Production and Use: Proceedings of the XXVI International Horticultural Congress. Acta Horticulturae 630, pp. 15-28.

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