I am exploring the concept of circumnutation and tendril movements as a model of universal spiral movement in all parts of the plant world and markets, and found an article that is a good jumping-off point.  I would be interested in readers' ideas on the horizontal and vertical aspects to which markets cling and go around in clockwise and counterclockwise direction.

James Sogi replies:

After a tendril winds up high and breaks and falls on its own weight more than some percentage of its height, it might take a day or so of random waving around before it finds some support towards the end of the day and can try climbing back up.

One thing these tendrils that fall down to the ground in Hawaii do is if they touch the ground is they start to send out roots and morph into a new plant. A gardener can to take that new start and grow some new plants and reap some fruit. After January's big fall, the markets fallen tendril was able to grow some roots and some fruit into the spring.

Asparagus roots grow foliage, gather energy, and produce edible shoots, but after some production, run out of energy and need to recharge. Seems to be a common natural cycle.

Phil McDonnell adds:

PhilWe grow a vegetable garden with many diverse varieties. I am always amazed at the strategies different plants seem to use to survive. In particular the legumes seem to particularly favor circumnutation and tendrils. Most peas and beans are grown on some sort of support like a pole or trellis. For the really tall pole beans that grow to six feet I have learned to use their natural circumnutation to advantage.

One form of this is the tendency of the tendrils to wrap themselves around some convenient support. But there is another form of circumnutation this gardener has learned to use to advantage. It is well known that many plants turn themselves toward the sun: heliotropism. Clearly this is an adaptation to maximize their light gathering ability but it also allows them to compete with neighboring plants and potentially block them out. One aspect of this is that the stems bend toward the sun in the morning and tend to track it as the day proceeds finally bending to the west at night. Curiously at night the stem proceeds to bend back through what is nearly a full circle so as to face the rising sun in the morning. One can use this type of circumnutation to train the plant to wrap itself around a pole. Each day another wind on the pole will be added.

The smaller bush varieties of legumes tend to rely more on their tendrils. Effectively when they are planted densely the tendrils connect to the other plants and form a complex structure of multiple stems with cross connected supports from the tendrils. Together the complex is stronger than the individual parts.

When the market is in an uptrend it seems to spiral around its basic trend channel. Clearly this resembles the helix like structure of circumnutation. One is struck by the similarity to other similar patterns. For example in a fluid flow in a cylinder there is a natural tendency to spiral inside the fluid channel. This behavior is predicted by the differential equations which describe this process. In a similar analog the Earth Moon system causes the Moon to describe a helical structure as the system orbits the Sun. One wonders if there is a common model which underlies all of these processes.

Scott Brooks expands on this theme:

ScottThis applies to what we do on my farm as well. Every year, I plant food plots for the deer, turkey and other wild game. In our warm season plots, I want a variety of plants to grow that complement and "assist" each other. For instance, I like to mix together creeping soybeans, cow peas, lablab and other creeping growth plants that create tons (literally tons) of forage on their own per acre. But if I sow into the mix a moderate amount of corn, milo, sudan grass, or other such "stalky" plants, it greatly increases the amount creeping forage that grows!

These stalks greatly increase the ability of the creeping plants to circumnutate around the stalks. If you put enough of the stalk type plants in the mix and they are close enough, you can actually see where the vines jump from stalk to stalk creating bridges. Other plants then "hitch hike" across these bridges, growing the diameter and strength of the bridge. Vines then grow up from the ground into these bridges.

After a rain storm, especially one with wind, some of these tendrils will break away from the bridges or stalks and fall to the ground. Fear not, for other plants will use those fallen tendrils to climb to the sun. One tendrils misfortune is 10 other tendrils opportunity!

As weeds move in, the weak tendrils are killed off. But the strong ones push ever higher to fight for ever elusive sun light. This growth has an interesting effect on the ecosystem. The new growth is tender and succulent with a lignin content (lignin is the woody/stalky back bone inside plants that is not easily digestible). These tendrils are tasty morsels for the local wildlife.

Deer especially like to move in and eat these succulent tendrils. Conversely, deer also love to eat new growth on the weeds that the tendrils are competing with (actually weeds are one of the main food sources for deer). Deer also the thick cover that the tendrils, weeds and stalk plants provide. Being genetically programmed to conserve energy, deer will eat their fill and likely just bed down in the thick mess.

This bedding down and walking around thru the food plot causes the weeds to get smashed down and the tendrils to be broken and driven to the ground. This allows new tendrils to hitch hike up the old broken tendrils and allows the the tendrils that weren't broken to grow even more.

As the summer progress, the ligin content increases in the plants as they near the end of their lives. This is when they really start to bear seeds. Many of these seeds fall to the ground to lay dormant until the conditions are right for them to bloom. Some of these seeds are eaten by birds. Many times these seeds pass thru the digestive tracts of these birds still intact to be "deposited" elsewhere, laying dormant until the time is right for them to make an attempt to grow.

Then, just when the creeping plants are nearing the end of their useful life, the stalk plants begin to bear fruit. The "seeds" of these plants are full of life giving energy in the form of carbohydrates. The corn or milo seed or the seed at the top of sudan grass (which looks like a really tall version of milo… sudan grass is also referred to as grain sorghum) is available for the wildlife during the hardest part of the winter when other main food sources are no longer available. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, the deer have built up their fat reserves by eating a lot of food high in protein, but to survive through the winter, they need lots of energy, especially to build up their depleted reserves from the fall rutting/breeding season.

As you can clearly see, the tendrils and their tendency to circumnuate around the stalk plants play a very important role in the overall synergy of the ecosystem.

As I've watched my food plots grow, it's hard not to notice the connections between them and the markets and economy. I see staunch stalky plants and they remind me of the big blue chip companies. They provide the back bone upon which the economy is built. But they are now more important than the smaller companies which account for the majority of the economy employment. These smaller companies grow around and circumnuate around the stalks of the big companies.

Recessions and market corrections come in and damage or destroy some of those companies and push them downward. But their misfortune or stumble is the gain of 10 other companies as they come in snatch up the lost employees, assets, infrastructure or ideas.

The strong companies grow in the midst of this dangerous highly competitive environment. Some are beaten by weeds. Weeds especially become a problem once a plot has established itself and is successful. Bad businessmen, dishonest businessmen, and less competent businessmen spring up on this fertile ground and environment, trying to hitch hike on the backs of the stalks and gain prominence/market share on the bridges that were created by the honest smaller companies.

But ultimately, these smaller creeping companies and larger stalky companies really only serve one purpose: To feed the consumer. Like the deer, consumers move in do business with (eat) the products of the small and larger companies, including the weeds. When a consumer finds a comfortable food plot they usually bed down there (i.e. use their products regularly and become a frequent shopper of the company).

But ultimately, things change. As companies grow, they become more rigid and less flexible in their ability to adapt changing environmental conditions. Their lignin content (rigidity) becomes such that they are no longer growing.

However, in business and the markets there really is no season stagnation. Sure, sectors and whole asset classes may lay dormant for a decade or more, but something somewhere is always flourishing and growing.

Out there, at all times, there is no "winter" in the markets and economy. Sure, we can have periods of time like 1968 - 1982 or 1929 - 1950 which sure seemed like winter in the markets and economy. But the reality is that somewhere, at all times, there is a tendril forming and growing. It is circumnutating it's way up some stalk of some established company or idea. But it doesn't even have to have a blue chip company to grow around! That's the beauty of capitalism!





Speak your mind

6 Comments so far

  1. George Parkanyi on May 8, 2008 8:40 pm

    Some observations and musings.

    1. Tendrils do better when they have a structure available to support them. I while back I was doing research on solar stocks, and discovered (everyone else of course has probably known this for years) that Sunpower Corp (SPWR) was in fact 70% owned by Cypress Semi-conductor (CY). If you wanted both tendril and stalk, you could buy Cypress, and get both a solar and a semiconductor business. However, if you wanted Sunpower as a pure play, you got the stalk anyway indirectly, because, to protect its own investment, Cypress is not likely to let Sunpower flounder. In other words, when it needs financing, Sunpower is more likely to get it as opposed to a standalone solar firm. So Sunpower becomes a lower-risk but just as volatile to the upside pure solar play.

    2. Markets sometimes cling to certain types of news. There have been times when gold has been very sensitive to geo-political unrest, and at other times not at all. More recently the falling US dollar was driving its price, but now that seems tired because there’s a lot of new noise about the dollar going up, yet gold is recently rallying in the face of that. There seems to be a shelf-life for a particular type of news-driver. Another good recent example was sub-prime. A month or so ago, the market completely shrugged off the news of UBS losing something like $12B. Early last summer that news would have knocked the market down 10%. It might be worth paying attention to a new news item that suddenly causes certain markets to react to it sharply, then keep monitoring how those markets continue to react to follow-up or related stories.

    3. Spirals. If you have a spiral going outward, you end up with one “ring” slightly further out than the previous. If this represented amplitude, then perhaps at fixed time intervals you could slightly increase leverage to increase an amplitude effect of a position. Perhaps each “ring” could represent an option strike price, and a progressive strategy built around that. Perhaps you could measure volatility in terms of the frequency with which the peaks and minimums (of a certain usable distance) recur above or below a certain moving average. Perhaps each “ring” is a set time interval where you make a purely intuitive decision to either add to or remove from your position a fixed amount - and see where that takes you. Perhaps you could ride the spiral (a position in a stock) and observe and record in detail what is going on around you at different price points (as you would record the scenery going by on your 360 degree spiral loops if you are looking outward). And so on.

    4 Coil - a non-expanding spiral. A conducting coil moved through a magnetic field induces electric current. Or, and electric current through a coil creates a magnetic field. What processes outside of the markets would induce movement in the markets. What about the other way? What might induce money to flow from one market to another? Is their kinetic money? Is there potential money? What could cause pent-up money to “spark” into a market, causing it to move rapidly?

    5 Resonance - phased induction. What forces in the past have come together at the same time to dramatically move markets? Are there any similar conditions today? Same question for feedback loops? Why did Internet stocks develop so much upward momentum? What could cause that to happen again in a different market?

    That’s all I can think of for now.


  2. George Parkanyi on May 8, 2008 9:11 pm

    One more… :)

    The helix - DNA - the blueprint of life. 4 nucleic acids; 4 classical elements - earth, wind, fire and water. 4 points of the compass. 4 right-angles in a circle or complete sine wave. 4 seasons. 4 quarters. 4 years between Olympics/World Cups/US elections. 4 small inner planets - 4 large outer planets. What is it with the number 4?


  3. Distoe on May 8, 2008 9:52 pm

    I’ve been using techniques derived from ‘algorithmic botany’ for quite some time in my modeling. And I know I am not alone.

    But I am somewhat surprised by your attention to spiral forms, as to me they seem to suggest a kind of harmonic oscillation in the interplay between bulls and bears. In fact I was just commenting how in recent months, despite high volatility, risk aversion has created a climate in which strong trending behaviors rule the day, regardless of where fundamentals, or indeed ‘reality,’ may lie.

    To me these ‘interesting times’ of punctuated equilibrium are much more note-worthy than the steady-state conditions that foster predictable pattern making. And suredly, there are plenty of evolutionary biological phenomena that mirror accelerated flux.

    BTW, love this post!

  4. Gary Rogan on May 8, 2008 9:56 pm

    Market charts often look like projections of spirals. A particle following a spiral trajectory at a constant velocity will be moving at that velocity in the middle of a projected loop bit seem almost still at the top and bottom. Yet if the projection analogy has any validity, something must be moving while the particle is still, but it’s not easily observable. What is it?

  5. Jim Simon on May 9, 2008 12:39 am

    it’s all positive and negatives, ying and yan, tidal dude.
    go with the flow.

  6. nic chalmers on May 9, 2008 4:49 am

    Nic Chalmers asks:
    Is the circumnutation of the stem of a vine not as a result of part of the plant preferring sun and another part having preference for the shade rather than just the plant seeking the moving sun? The tug-of-war that takes place within the stem results in a spiral that is able to grab onto the creepers surrounds and assist the plant on its way.

    The market also has a similar struggle which results in twists and turns and also tries to grab on to the fundamental surrounds in order to, at times blindly, find its way.


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