Just the Two of Us
Samara. Whirlybirds, helicopters, keys — these names all describe the maple’s distinctive seed, the “samara.” Depending on the species, maple trees flower in spring to early summer, and female flowers give rise to the samara. Each samara contains a single seed attached to an asymmetrical wing-like projection that, through a complicated aerodynamic process, causes the seed to spin rapidly as it falls, resembling a helicopter propeller. The spiraling motion of the samara helps to keep the seed aloft for a longer period of time than if the seed was subject to gravity alone, causing samaras to appear as though they were floating or flying as the wind bears them away from their parent tree. Under the right conditions, this spinning action can carry the samara great distances from its parent, but even damaged samaras tend to rotate well. Samaras typically grow in pairs, but typically, only one seed will germinate, so sibling trees don’t need to compete for the same resources.
The above is the narrative description. As for the poetic description, I love how they look, how they fly and the how they sparkle as they wave to you from the tree branch. The best time to observe their dance is during the early morning and late afternoon horizontal light, in the late fall and, in this case, the winter. That’s when you see this delightful, roasted color.