The wind brought down a shower of maple seedpods yesterday.
When I was a kid, we called then “helicopters” and I collected them, shelled them, and pretended to make “bean” soup with the seeds. Guess who likes to do the same thing? My kid! (It’s funny how these things seem to be genetic.) So, when my son asked if we could put off doing homework so we could go outside and collect helicopters, how could I resist?
Helicopters are the seedpods of maple trees. Depending on where you live, in late winter or early spring, maple trees “flower.” Bunches of tiny flowers will begin to appear—clinging to branches all over the tree. With the help of the wind the blooms are pollinated and later produce seedpods.
Some seedpods drop to the ground with the rain and winds of spring. These early helicopters are usually green, but some may start to dry up and take on a beige appearance. Many of the seeds will hang in there and continue to develop through the summer. Then, in the fall, another batch of seeds will drop to the ground.
The twirl of the pods helps disperse the seeds further than the area immediately under the parent tree. Each tree can drop hundreds of thousands of seedpods between spring and fall. In an urban setting, just a fraction of those seeds will be lucky enough to actually become fixed into the soil long enough to begin life as a maple tree.
While most of the seedpods will get swept away by brooms and street cleaners, some may actually end up in a salad. No joke! Maple seeds are edible. Who knew? I personally haven’t tried them (and, of course children need to check with their parents before doing so), but it’s nice to know that I could eat them if I was stranded in a forest preserve and ran out of granola bars.
I’m sure you can come up with some fun ways to use the helicopters that land in your neighborhood, but just in case you need inspiration, check out Pinterest for 1,000+ things to do with maple seeds.