Lindenmayer systems
MuPAD® notebooks are not recommended. Use MATLAB® live scripts instead.
MATLAB live scripts support most MuPAD functionality, though there are some differences. For more information, see Convert MuPAD Notebooks to MATLAB Live Scripts.
plot::Lsys(alpha
, start
, trans, …
, <a = a_{min} .. a_{max}
>, options
)
plot::Lsys
creates Lindenmayer systems, i.e.,
string rewriting systems controlling turtle
graphics.
Lindenmayer systems, or Lsystems for short, are based on the
concept of iteratively transforming a string of symbols into another
string. After a finite number of iterations, the resulting string
is translated into a sequence of movement commands to a "turtle"
(see plot::Turtle
),
which can be drawn on the screen.
In plot::Lsys
, the string of symbols is represented
by a string of characters, i.e., a DOM_STRING
. Transformation
rules are given as equations mapping strings of length 1 to
strings of arbitrary length. Turtle rules are
given as equations mapping strings of length 1 to
simple movement commands: Line
, Move
, Left
, Right
, Push
, Pop
, Noop
,
or a color specification.
The commands are mostly selfexplanatory. Left
and Right
turn
by the amount set in the slot "RotationAngle"
;
the initial direction is "up". Line
and Move
move
by the amount set in "StepLength"
, where Move
does
not draw a line. Push
stores the current state
(position, direction, color) on a stack from where it can later be
reactivated using Pop
. Noop
means
"ignore this, no operation". A color specification changes
the line color.
The following turtle rules are used by default (but can be disabled by giving other rules for the lefthand sides):
"F" = Line
, "f" = Move
, "["
= Push
, "]" = Pop
, "+" = Left
, ""
= Right
.
Attribute  Purpose  Default Value 

AffectViewingBox  influence of objects on the ViewingBox of
a scene  TRUE 
AntiAliased  antialiased lines and points?  FALSE 
Color  the main color  RGB::Blue 
Frames  the number of frames in an animation  50 
Generations  number of iterations of Lsystem rules  5 
IterationRules  iteration rules of an Lsystem  
Legend  makes a legend entry  
LegendText  short explanatory text for legend  
LegendEntry  add this object to the legend?  FALSE 
LineColor  color of lines  RGB::Blue 
LineWidth  width of lines  0.35 
LineStyle  solid, dashed or dotted lines?  Solid 
LinesVisible  visibility of lines  TRUE 
Name  the name of a plot object (for browser and legend)  
ParameterEnd  end value of the animation parameter  
ParameterName  name of the animation parameter  
ParameterBegin  initial value of the animation parameter  
ParameterRange  range of the animation parameter  
RotationAngle  angle of rotation commands in Lsystems  
StartRule  start rule of an Lsystem  
StepLength  length of movement commands in Lsystems  1.0 
TimeEnd  end time of the animation  10.0 
TimeBegin  start time of the animation  0.0 
TimeRange  the real time span of an animation  0.0 .. 10.0 
Title  object title  
TitleFont  font of object titles  [" sansserif " , 11 ] 
TitlePosition  position of object titles  
TitleAlignment  horizontal alignment of titles w.r.t. their coordinates  Center 
TitlePositionX  position of object titles, x component  
TitlePositionY  position of object titles, y component  
TurtleRules  rules translating Lsystem symbols to turtle movements  
Visible  visibility  TRUE 
VisibleAfter  object visible after this time value  
VisibleBefore  object visible until this time value  
VisibleFromTo  object visible during this time range  
VisibleAfterEnd  object visible after its animation time ended?  TRUE 
VisibleBeforeBegin  object visible before its animation time starts?  TRUE 
As a very simple system, we consider the following iteration rule: "replace each line forward by the sequence "line forward, move forward without painting, line forward."":
l := plot::Lsys(0, "F", "F" = "FfF"):
Note that we do not provide an iteration rule for "f"
.
This means "leave f
alone, do not change
it."
The start state is displayed by plotting the system after zero generations:
l::Generations := 0: plot(l)
Increasing the number of generations, we see the effect of our transformation rule:
l::Generations := 1: plot(l)
l::Generations := 2: plot(l)
l::Generations := 3: plot(l)
The following variant of this simple example produces approximations to the Cantor set:
l := plot::Lsys(0, "F", "F" = "FfF", "f" = "fff"): plot(l)
To get more interesting examples, we include rotations into our rules:
l := plot::Lsys(PI/2, "FFFF", "F" = "FF+F+FFFF+F", Generations = 3)
As you can see, plot::Lsys
has detected that
our rule is an iteration rule. We could have used this syntax directly
when creating the object. We have not given turtle rules, so the defaults
are used:
plot(l)
The Peano curve is a famous example of a space filling curve. In the limit process, increasing the number of iterations while decreasing the length of the forward steps, it actually fills the plane. There are different constructions known, the one shown here fills a square tilted by :
peano := plot::Lsys(PI/2, "F", "F" = "F+FFFF+F+F+FF"):
The transformation rule says to replace each straight line with the following construction:
peano::Generations := 1: plot(peano)
After a few iterations, the lines already get very close to one another:
peano::Generations := 5: plot(peano)
Many Lsystems contain different types of lines: While they are drawn exactly the same, their transformation rules are different from one another. The following example shows an image similar to the Sierpinski triangle:
l := plot::Lsys(PI/3, "R", "L" = "R+L+R", "R" = "LRL", "L" = Line, "R" = Line, Generations = 7): plot(l)
The Push
and Pop
operations
can be used to draw "arms" in an Lsystem:
plot(plot::Lsys(23*PI/180, "F", "F" = "FF[F+F+F]+[+FFF]", Generations = 4))
Lsystems have been used to simulate plant growth. We show an
example here that uses the symbols B
, H
,
and G
to change the color of lines:
l := plot::Lsys(PI/9, "BL", "L" = "BR[+HL]BR[GL]+HL", "R" = "RR", "L" = Line, "R" = Line, "B" = RGB::Brown, "H" = RGB::ForestGreen, "G" = RGB::SpringGreen, Generations = 6): plot(l)
The attribute Generations
can be animated.
This way, we can actually make the "plant" "grow:"
plot(plot::Lsys(a*PI/45, "BL", "L" = "BR[+HL]BR[GL]+HL", "R" = "RR", "L" = Line, "R" = Line, "B" = RGB::Brown, "H" = RGB::ForestGreen, "G" = RGB::SpringGreen, Generations = a, a = 1 .. 6)):
Lsystems can display a couple of popular fractals. One example is the Koch snowflake, generated by replacing each straight line with a straight line, followed by a left turn of , another straight line, a right turn of , another straight line, another left turn of and a final straight line:
koch := plot::Lsys(PI/3, "FFF", "F" = "F+FF+F"):
The starting rule has been chosen to be an equilateral triangle:
koch::Generations := 0: plot(koch)
The first generation looks like this:
koch::Generations := 1: plot(koch)
The limit is pretty well approximated after five generations:
koch::Generations := 5: plot(koch)
Finally, we use plot::modify
and the "StepLength"
slot
to show the first couple of iterations superimposed on one another:
colors := [RGB::Red, RGB::Green, RGB::Blue, RGB::Yellow, RGB::DimGrey]: plot(plot::modify(koch, Generations = i, StepLength = 3^(i), LineColor = colors[i+1]) $ i = 0..4)
Another wellknown example of a fractal generated by an Lsystem is Heighway's Dragon curve. Informally, it is generated by "drawing a right angle and then replacing each right angle by a smaller right angle" (Gardner). It has been used in the book "Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton and thereby got another nickname, the "Jurassic Park fractal:"
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/2, "L", "L" = "L+R+", "R" = "LR", "L" = Line, "R" = Line, Generations = 9))
It is interesting to note that the iteration rules of this curve are equivalent to appending a mirrored copy of the curve to its end:
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/2, "L", "L" = "L+R+", "R" = "LR", "L" = Line, "R" = Line, Generations = a, a = 1..9))
While the Lsystem of the previous example corresponds to the definition found in the literature, the images in at least one popular source show another system (while the definition given is the one from above), namely:
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/4, "XFY", "X" = "X+F+Y", "Y" = "XFY", "X" = Line, "Y" = Line, Generations = 9)):
An Lsystem may contain letters that are not meant to show in
the final graphic, so they form some sort of "markers"
for subsequent iteations. For this purpose, you may use the turtle
rule Noop
:
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/12, "X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X+X", "X" = "[F+F+F+F[XY]+++++F++++++++FFFF]", "Y" = "[F+F+F+F[Y]+++++F++++++++FFFF]", "X" = Noop, "Y" = Noop, Generations = 3))
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/2, "FB", "A" = "FBFA+HFA+FBFA", "B" = "FB+FAFBJFBFA", "F" = "", "H" = "", "J" = "+", "A" = Noop, "B" = Noop, "H" = Noop, "J" = Noop))
Using this rule, we can use the following formulation of the popular Hilbert curve due to Ken Philip:
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/2, "x", "x" = "yF+xFx+Fy", "y" = "+xFyFyFx+", "x" = Noop, "y" = Noop))
To animate the creation process of the Hilbert curve, we adjust the length of the lines to the current number of iteration steps:
plot(plot::Lsys(PI/2, "x", "x" = "yF+xFx+Fy", "y" = "+xFyFyFx+", "x" = Noop, "y" = Noop, Generations = i, StepLength = 1/(2^i1), i = 1..6, Frames = 6))
In some cases, systems will need small angles and long strings in order to specify the desired directions. Take for example the following system:
plot(plot::Lsys(7*PI/15, "F", "F"="F+FF+F", Generations=4))
The rotations to the right use an angle of , while that to the left (the sharp spike) is a turn of . It would look more natural, however, to have the turtle start to the right, i.e., at an angle of . Since no multiple of is equal to modulo 2 π, this requires that we use a smaller angle, adjusting our iteration rule:
plot(plot::Lsys(7*PI/30,"+++++++++++++++F", "F"="F++FF++F", Generations=4))

Angle (in radians) for turning commands. Animatable.


String used as the starting rule.


Iteration and Turtle command rules (see below).


Animation parameter, specified as 
Lindenmayer systems are "string rewriting systems." MuPAD^{®} implements only contextfree Lsystems, which are analyzed in a similar context as contextfree grammars.
Many examples of Lsystems can be found, among other places, in "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" by Benoît Mandelbrot.