Choose Your Conflicts

Evolution has led to flowers and leaves with many different shapes. This variation arose through changes in patterns of gene activity creating different patterns of conflict. By playing Choose Your Conflicts you can get a feel for how varying the type of conflict can produce different shapes. The conflicts are specified by two components. First is how fast some regions are specified to grow in relation to others. Second is the preferred orientation of growth which is set by choosing an orientation of arrows (a polarity field). Computer modelling shows how combination these lead to deformations in shape. You can see how each region deforms by the way circles marked on the initial shape change over time (see also Pottery and plants). If all regions grow at the same rate and direction there no conflict and the shape simply gets larger or stretches.

We collaborated with Norwich based creative digital agency Applin Skinner to develop the online game Choose Your Conflicts (unfortunately the game does not currently work on small devices such as mobile phones).

Try to guess the conflicts needed to generate a shape and watch your prediction grow


Plant shapes arise through conflicts between regions trying to grow in different rates or directions.


Explore patterns of growth to find out how a flat disc grew into a shape. A clue is in the way the initial spots have become deformed during growth.

Touch to shuffle

The first element in a growth pattern is whether some regions grow faster than others.

Choose where you think growth should happen faster to generate the final shape (green is fast, white is slow)

The second element in a growth pattern is whether growth is faster in some orientations (anisotropic) or equal in all directions (isotropic)

  • Option 1

Choose the pattern of arrows along which growth should happen fastest to generate the final shape (no arrows = isotropic)

Watch your shape grow

Combining these two elements of the growth patterns results in:

Well done!

You chose the correct growth options for your selected plant shape.

Start again

Try again

An app