7 Trees with Helicopter Seeds

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Trees with Helicopter Seeds

Samara fruit, also known as helicopter seed, is prized by many playful gardeners and nature lovers. These paper-winged seeds make good toys and snacks. Samara is a type of dried fruit, not a fleshy fruit like an apple or cherry. The seeds are surrounded by a paper wing that, when the wind blows, carries them farther than most other fruit seeds.

A familiar type of samara is the two-winged samara found in maples (Acer spp.). Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) Produce a samara that has a single elongated wing. Elm trees (Ulmus spp.) Produce samaras where the seed is in the middle of a paper circle. Here are 11 trees and shrubs that produce helicopter seeds.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

The red maple (Acer rubrum) is a tree native to the eastern and north-central US that grows faster than the Norwegian or sugar maple, but much slower than the silver maple. Spreading 30 to 50 feet wide, it grows 12 to 70 feet tall with a rounded to oval crown.

Red maples are chosen for their striking bright red, sometimes orange or yellow foliage. The flowers are also usually red, sometimes yellow, and bloom in large clusters from March to April. The leaves appear dark green above and grayish-green below. Samara fruits appear reddish in color, each producing a two-winged helicopter seed.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Red, sometimes yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Adaptable; sandy to clay

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) grows about 2 feet or more per year, reaching 50 to 80 feet in height depending on location and 35 to 50 feet in width. Although moderately drought tolerant, silver maples are especially popular for their ability to live in standing water for extended periods.

Often planted along riverbanks or other waterways to control erosion, these trees can tolerate high water levels in spring and low water levels in summer. Clusters of red, yellow, and silver flower clusters bloom in early spring. Its pairs of winged seeds appear prolifically and will quickly drop and sprout in any open soil.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
  • Bloom Color: Red, yellow, and silver
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, slightly acidic

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Loved for its beautiful foliage, the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) produces leaves with five to nine distinct palm lobes. Depending on the variety, they can be green or red. The leaves in fall turn bright red, orange, yellow, or purple. Some varieties have broad lobes, while others are more precisely dissected and look like lace.

The flowers of the Japanese maple are small, red, or purple, giving way to the half-inch-long samara fruit. The average size of this tree is 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. The shape is usually round, while some varieties offer a watery shape.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, or purple
  • Sun Exposure: Filtered sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic

Common hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata)

The common hops (Ptelea trifoliata) is sometimes considered a shrub as it grows only 5 to 6 meters in height and width. Dense and rounded, it grows well as a flowering hedge.

The dark green leaves are glossy and two to four inches long, changing to a greenish-yellow in the fall. The fragrant flowers bloom in late spring as small greenish-white clusters. From late summer to long winter, the seeds mature and produce samaras.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Bloom Color: Greenish white
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium well-drained

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

The tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is an invasive tree and noxious weed in Pennsylvania and other parts of the U.S. Growing rapidly into a large tree, it can reach a substantial height of 80 feet and spread up to 60 feet in diameter. Its young bark is smooth and greenish-brown in color, changing from light brown to gray.

A leaf is 1 to 4 feet long and can include 10 to 40 leaflets. Although there are separate male and female trees, there are some perfect flowers, which bloom in early summer. Male flowers emit what is known as an unpleasant odor. Female trees produce seeds called "twisted samaras" in clusters that mature to reddish-brown in September.

These 1 to 2-inch-long samaras can hang from the tree for the winter. The tree of heaven appears in Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1942) to reflect the main character's resilience.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Bloom Color: Greenish
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Adaptable to average to dry medium soils, tolerates poor soil

Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The tulip (Liriodendron tulipifera) gets its name from the flowers and leaves that resemble tulips. The leaves are bright green, changing to golden yellow in fall. While the leaves are 10 to 20 centimeters long and wide, the flowers are 5 to 7 centimeters long.

The petals are greenish-yellow in flowers with orange centers, which bloom from May to June. Although the flowers may not appear for the tree's first 15 years, Liriodendron tulipifera can quickly grow into a large shade tree reaching 30 meters in height and spreading to over 12 meters in width.

Each year, the fruits appear in the form of conical clusters of samaras.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Bloom Color: Yellow-green with orange center
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist, well-drained; salt intolerant

Tipu tree (Tipuana tipu)

The Tipu tree (Tipuana tipu) is a leguminous tree with medium-sized flowers. While it grows as a shade tree in warmer parts of the world, such as its native Bolivia, it is used as a flowering tree or landscape specimen in the US The tree has a trunk and creates a sprawling canopy.

Under ideal conditions, it matures to about 18 meters tall and wide. Beautiful yellow flowers spread across the tree canopy in summer, turning into tipu fruits, large brown seed pods that resemble the same samaras so often seen on native North American trees.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
  • Bloom Color: Yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist or dry acidic clay, loam, or sand

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About How to Germinate Japanese Maple Seeds

Source: Mike Kincaid

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