About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maple seeds dropping

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
If you haven’t weeded your garden for a week, you may just return to find a mini forest has sprung up! It’s raining Samaras, the single-winged fruit of a maple tree, often referred to as a wingnut, helicopter, whirlybird, whirligig, or a spinning jenny.

An unmistakable sound outside my window in the spring is the rattle of seeds in the tall maple tree branches just waiting to clatter down after every gust of wind. We always called them "helicopters" because of the way they spin as they fall. With the right wind, this flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue can carry the tree's embryos more than a mile. During World War II, the US Army developed a special air drop supply carrier that could carry up to 65 pounds of supplies based on the Maple seeds’ shape.

All maples produce samaras, but red, silver and Norway maples often produce the largest quantities. Over the next few weeks, these seeds will rain down on lawns, decks, roofs and gutters in many locations. They can become a nuisance if they clog gutters and down-spouts or germinate in garden beds.

But they can also be literally a windfall of food for a variety of birds and mammals. Squirrels are munching as fast as they can. I’ve also been watching the cardinals, woodpeckers, jays, blackbirds and starlings bouncing from seed to seed.

Related articles:
- Cedar Waxwing sipping sap from Sugar Maple http://goo.gl/K0DUhE
- Red Maple flower make a tasty treat for birds http://goo.gl/M9qJlw
- There are Ducks Nesting in My Tree! http://goo.gl/wE13hE
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/syPNzh