Thursday, April 19, 2012

helicopters everywhere!



Helicopters are flying overhead all over the place! When I received the message below from Sandy, our DC Cooperative Extension Agent, I became acutely aware of the abundance of maple seeds all around my neighborhood. Her Tip of the Month was very informative so I thought I'd pass it along... Thanks Sandy!


A SEEDY START TO SPRING. Throughout the city I have noticed a strange look and color to many maple tree canopies. Upon closer inspection the cause is clearly due to most maples having a very seedy appearance! Due to the incredible warm, dry weather this spring, maple flowers were fully pollinated, which in turn means every single MAPLE SAMARA or winged seed, whirligigs or maple helicopters, is currently under development. This extreme seed load and their subsequent development and ripening, is expected to result in sparse, dinky foliage development on maple trees this spring. Normal leaf development is slowed and reduced by the quadrillion maple seeds ripening, using most of the stored resources of the tree. The seeds mature, turn brown and then fall off to cover every square inch of the earth, easily filling and plugging all rain gutters. However, the anxiety is most intense after the seeds fall because there is no apparent reason for the "thinning canopy" and lack of leaves. Many will be concerned about the overall health of their trees, while others erroneously associate heavy seed production with the last hurrah of stressed, dying trees.

Maple trees are capable of producing many seeds each year, but the limiting factor tends to be the weather, specifically those quick freezes and frosts after seed set. Without some type of freeze or frost to kill or injure these developing seeds, the die is cast for scores of samaras to rain down from the trees. This year just happened to be one that favored maple seed development. Remember that heavy seed production is not necessarily a good indicator of tree health nor should it be used as an indicator of impending tree death. It just means that well-timed freezes are needed to reduce the seed numbers, or hope for a really strong wind to blow them all to the neighbor's yard!

11 comments:

  1. The seeds do look like mini helicopters!
    I like Maple trees!Soon your neighbourhood is going to be full of maple trees!

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  2. That's a lot of seeds! I wish one will fall on your compound ;-)

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  3. hope for a really strong wind to blow them all to the neighbor's yard..
    Now that is really funny!!

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  4. dear Wendy, thank you for this info. I do not have a maple tree but I can think of 3 uses for the many tiny helicopters: 1. transport for tiny fairies 2. grow seedlings (saplings?) to sell at school and church fetes. 3. for art projects. cheers, cm

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  5. Thanks for passing this on. I thought there were more seeds on my maple this year!

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  6. Amazing...our maples have not even formed leaves yet.

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  7. This sounds like our oak trees!!! But we get the acorns. I love the helicopters of maples....but they get EVERYWHERE! I guess that's the purpose:) But when you look at the whole picture, they're great trees to have around. I did the same thing with our oak trees one year....I thought they were dying...but I discovered that they drop their leaves in spring instead of late fall like most trees:)

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  8. Actually I have always wanted a maple tree, so I won't mind if those seeds drop into my compound.

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  9. I have been madly plucking helicopters with illusions of becoming trees from every available patch of dirt. Good to know the science behind the onslaught.

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  10. I was relieved to find your comments...and to know that I had not just ~imagined~ my HUGE, old maple was heavily laden with seed clusters this year. The clusters were so large they reminded me of hydrangea blooms! Since dropping, my tree definitely does not seem as "leafy" this year and I have been very concerned that it might be dying. This would be a major loss. Not sure of its age but the trunk is approx 3.5ft in diameter. Hope all was due only to our wacky winter and spring in Ohio this year ~ :-(

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  11. I to was concerned about our Maple tree thinking it was on it's last hurrah. The abundance of Maple seeds was unbelievable and the lack of healthy foliage made me sad to think our tree was on it's way out. It has also been a point of contention with the neighbors who are extremely particular about their yard. They refer to the seeds as, "whirly turds". This made me laugh inside a great deal. Our neighbors would go to great lengths to remove the seeds from their yard. Everyday she would go outside with a bucket and pick up the seeds one by one between the blades of grass. Unfortunately everyday more would gently twirl through the air and land on their perfectly manicured grass like the unstoppable force that nature is. Lol!!!

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