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Maple helicopters

Maple helicopters

What do you call the dry, winged seed pods that get blown off a maple tree? Scientifically, they're known as samaras, but most people know them better as helicopters, whirligigs, keys, or polynoses.

The shape of a samara enables the wind to carry the seed away from the parent tree. Samaras from maples and ashes have a seed on one side with a wing extending outward. This causes the samara to spiral as it falls. Seeds from elms, which have a seed in the middle of the wing, fall straight down.

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Last updated by curious on Aug. 23, 2008

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While the Library has verified the information presented in these files in what it considers to be reliable and authoritative sources, it cannot take responsibility for nor guarantee the accuracy of the information presented.