Photo Story: Tons of Maple Tree Helicopters

Our property is surrounded by maple trees.  One of the beautiful things that happens in the spring is that the maples sprout large quantities of little “helicopters”, as we called them as kids. In reality these are seed pods, and they appear before the new maple leaves arrive.

Beautiful colors eventually turn to brown:

Beginning with rich colors of green, pink, red and yellow, the helicopters eventually dry out and loose their color, instead turning to a dried-out tan or brown color.  At that point they loose their touch with the stems to which they’d been attached, and drop to the ground in a twirling motion.  This action is why they are often called helicopters or whirligigs. Where they drop will depend on the wind, as it is often high winds that “set them free”.

"A Squadron of Maple Whirligigs"
Olympus EM-1 with 12-100mm F4 zoom @ 54mm (108mm-equiv)
1/100sec, F4, ISO 200
Processed with Lightroom and Perfectly Clear

A reason for concern:

Of particular concern, however, is the number of helicopters produced.  This particular tree is so dense with seed pods. It’s a “bumper crop”.  But that may not be a good thing. We’ve had drought conditions the last few years and I have learned from an arborist that producing a bumper crop of seeds is often a tree’s way of continuing the species during times of stress, and before the tree dies off.

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