8 Stunning Fractals Found in Nature

July 5, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Photo credit: cyclonebill/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Math + Nature = Beauty!

Fractals are never-ending patterns. The beauty of fractals is that their infinite complexity is formed through the repetition of simple equations. These repeating patterns are displayed at every scale.

Frederi Viens, a program director at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Mathematical Science, explains in a recent NSF news release, “If I wanted to construct a fractal, I would take a simple rule, like adding three small triangles on the edge of a big triangle […]. Then, the rule is repeated again and again.”

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Most people are extremely familiar with fractals because they are seen throughout the natural world. Here are some of the most stunning examples of fractals in nature.

1. Snowflake


Credit: Alexey Kljatov/flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

2. Unfurling Fern

Unfurling fern

Credit: Thomas Brown/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

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3. Nautilus Shell

Nautilus shell

Credit: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

4. Gecko’s Foot

Gecko foot on glass

Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

5. Angelica Flowerhead

Angelica flowerhead

Credit: Chiswick Chap/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

6. Frost Crystals

Frost crystals

Credit: Schnobby/Wikipedia (CC BY_SA 3.0)

7. Lightning Bolt


Credit: Postdif/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

8. Romanesco Broccoli


Credit: cyclonebill/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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