How Amazonian Lily Pads Inspire Building Design

Not only is an Amazonian water lily massive, with leaves that can grow up to 10 feet, but it’s also strong enough to withstand the weight of a small child. For years, researchers have attempted to ascertain how lily pads can do this. A recent study from Science Advances uncovered how a network of fractal veins, which radiate concentrically from a central stem, efficiently support the leaves. In addition to being an exciting revelation for botanists, the results of this study are particularly insightful for architects as they can improve the design of floating structures, wind turbines or anything needing increased structural support. (In fact, the lily pad inspired architect Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, a London landmark built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.) Learn more about the lily’s influence on building design at National Geographic.

Image courtesy of Radek Petrasek/CTK/AP Images