Self-similarity of plants has attracted the attention of biologists for at least 50 years, yet its formal treatment is rare, and no measure for quantifying the degree of self-similarity currently exists. We propose a formal definition and measures of self-similarity, tailored to branching plant structures. To evaluate self-similarity, we make use of an algorithm for computing topological distances between branching systems, developed in computer science. The formalism is illustrated using theoretical branching systems, and applied to analyze self-similarity in two sample plant structures: inflorescences of Syringa vulgaris (lilac) and shoots of Oryza sativa (rice).
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