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This article is the first of a series of three in which the various phyllotaxic modes are shown to result from successive iterations of two possible simple dynamical systems. In this first part the hypotheses put forward by Hofmeister (1868) for the formation of primordia are re-examined and shown to form the rules of such a system. By means of a physics experiment and a numerical simulation, it is demonstrated that this system gives rise to the self organization of the spiral phyllotacticdoi:10.1006/jtbi.1996.0024 fatcat:5jy5dths2vd3xlvrvfonqik5ki