Modeling plant development with L-systems

Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz1, Mikolaj Cieslak1, Pascal Ferraro1, and Jim Hanan2

1Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary
2Centre for Horticultural Science, University of Queensland


Since their inception in 1968, L-systems have become a key conceptual, mathematical and software tool for modeling plant development at different levels of plant organization spanning molecular genetics, plant physiology, whole plant architecture, and plant communities. The models can be descriptive, directly recapitulating observations and measurements of plants; mechanistic, explaining higher-levels processes in terms of lower-level ones; or they may combine features of both classes. We present the basic idea of L-systems, motivate and outline some of their most useful extensions, and give a taste of current techniques for modeling with L-systems. The sample models progress in the scale of organization from a bacterium to a herbaceous plant to a tree, and simulate different forms of information transfer during the development, from communication between adjacent cells to bidirectional information exchange with the environment.


Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, Mikolaj Cieslak, Pascal Ferraro, and Jim Hanan. Modeling plant development with L-systems. In Richard J. Morris (Ed.) Mathematical Modelling in Plant Biology, Springer (in press).

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