Do you know trees like Red Maple and Norway Maple produce winged seeds spinning like a helicopter?
So, follow this article to quench your thirst for the varieties that produce Helicopter seeds and failproof tips to germinate them.
Table of Contents Show
What do Helicopter Seeds Look Like?
You can find the trees like Field Maple, Ash, Sycamore, and Norway maple, producing Helicopter seeds often called Samara.
These seeds are edible; you can enjoy them after boiling them as a vegetable, removing the outer cover.
However, never feed them to your dogs as they are poisonous and cause vomiting and diarrhea.
|5-15 mm wide and 20-50 mm long
|V-shaped wings with rounded ends
|March- April or sooner in mild areas.
|Red or yellow
What is the Physics Behind Helicopter Seeds?
Helicopter seeds, also called dry fruits, have wings around them that give both downward and rotational motions when falling on the ground.
These winged seeds are often called whirligigs, spinning jenny, and wingnuts due to their appearance and motion.
Importance of Helicopter Seeds
- Helicopter seeds’ papery covering, wings, and light nature make them capable of transferring long distances without any help from birds.
- As the seed dispersal occurs farther than the parent plant, the newly dispersed seeds get better conditions to grow as mature trees.
- These light seeds do not just spin, but are also a food source for many small animals and birds.
- Moreover, it is said that the Ash seed is the source of inspiration for creating a single-bladed helicopter
5 Tree Varieties with Helicopter Seeds
Mainly, plants like Maple, Ash, Elm, and Sycamore trees produce helicopter seeds.
Those seeds are produced in late spring – early summer and fall off the trees upon maturity. Learn about the prime examples of trees producing helicopter seeds.
1. Red Maple
Red Maple is the tree from where you get your maple syrup.
Red Maple is originally from North America and can grow 40-70 feet tall with a lifespan of over 150 years.
You can grow this incredible plant with 2 winged Helicopter seeds in USDA Zone 9.
2. Norway Maple
Norway Maple, also known as Harlequin Maple, is often mistaken for Sugar Maple.
Also, it bears seeds with blade-shaped wings that are pollinated by wind.
Norway Maple grows in USDA zone 3-7 and has a good shade tolerance ability with a lifespan of 150-250 years.
3. Japanese Maple
Japanese Maple varieties are originally from Japan and grow in USDA zone 5-8 with over a hundred years of lifespan.
Moreover, the plant grows 15-30 ft tall and produces 0.5 to 0.75 inches long Helicopter seeds, which are green-red.
These winged seeds ripen between September and October and are pollinated by insects and wind.
4. Velvet Ash
Velvet Ash is a tree growing 30-50 ft tall with a 50-150 year lifespan and is Native to Mountain Southwest.
Besides, Velvet Ash bears Helicopter seeds called samara shaped like Canoe paddles.
5. Tipu Tree
Tipu Tree is from the bean or legume family native to Bolivia and can grow between 50 and 98 feet.
Moreover, this plant lives up to 150 years in USDA zone 9-11.
This flowering tree bears pinnately compound bright green leaves and golden yellow flowers that bloom in late summer.
The seeds of this plant grow on a seed pod that looks like maple keys and resembles a bean.
How to Grow Helicopter Seeds?
You can only grow fallen Helicopter seeds as those still on the trees never germinate.
Remember, these seeds take up to 2 years or more to germinate, so start with stratification.
The wings help the seed to remain upright and germinate after effectively embedding itself into the soil.
Methods like cold stratification and warm and cold stratification may help in rapid germination.
1. Germination via Cold Stratification
You can use cold stratification for Sugar Maples, Bigleaf Maples, Japanese Maples, Norway Maples, and Red Maples.
- Pick the recently fallen healthy seeds and dry them in a paper towel for three days without any disturbances.
- Remove the paper cover and wings of the seeds and let the seed rest for 24 hours on a new paper towel.
- Take the moist sand in quantity equal to the seed and place the mixture into the refrigerator after packing it in the plastic bag.
- Leave the bag in the refrigerator for four months.
- Fill a 12-inch planter with 2 parts of specialized Edna’s potting mix and one part of compost, leaving an inch for watering.
- Or, fill the 6 inches layer of seed bed with compost and plant the Helicopter seeds 1 inch deep.
- Ensure the seeds are 12 inches apart before covering them with soil.
- Sow only one seed per container if you are growing a Maple plant in a pot, and keep the soil moist.
- Apply mulch into the soil and water only when it dries until the seeds germinate.
Warm & Cold Stratification
You can use this method on Vine Maple, Striped Maple, Amur Maple, and Paperbark Maple, as they have very hard covering.
Unlike other Helicopter seeds, these varieties produce seeds in autumn or winter, requiring extra care to germinate.
- Rub the base of the seeds against sandpaper until the outer covering breaks, and soak them in hydrogen peroxide for a few hours.
- Again, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours and store them at 68–86ºF for 30-60 days.
- Place the seeds in zip lock bags with peat moss and other growing mediums and keep them in the refrigerator after misting the mixture well.
- Cold stratify the mixture for 90-180 days.
Remember that the germinating probability of these seeds is only 20%, and Acer glabrum entirely takes 180 days to germinate.
Tips to Care for Helicopter Seeds After Germination
Prefer to transplant your germinated Helicopter seeds only in spring or summer, but not in the fall.
Also, if you are relocating the seedlings, select a sunny spot to grow your plant.
- Plant the seedlings in moderately acidic soil of pH about 6-7.5 mixed with compost or peat moss.
- Pat the soil gently and make the soil moist but not soggy.
- Water the seedling once a week regularly or when the soil turns 2 inches dry.
- Never place the newly germinated seedling in direct sunlight until the roots are properly established.
- Apply mulch around the trunk area to prevent the plant from weeds and retain moisture.
- Ensure to grow the seedlings upright to give them proper shape. Pruning early will help maintain the plant’s proper shape when the trees grow big enough.
From Editorial Team
Germinate your Helicopter Seeds without any special treatments!
You can grow Silver and Red Maples directly into the soil without any stratification method, as they don’t go dormant.
Collect the fallen seeds in spring or late summer and plant them immediately on moist soil without drying them.
Some Red Maple drops the seeds in autumn, which can’t germinate them directly, requiring cold stratification.