Answer to the Friday Whatsit for Sept. 10, 2010
There were several good guesses this week, including lots of people who thought it was a leaf. Very good guesses all, but April guessed correctly again, thus proving it is not just good looks that run in the family.
This is the fruit/seed of a Norway maple tree. Commonly called helicopters or whirlybirds, the official name for this type of winged seed is samara. Samaras are the maple tree’s way of spreading its seeds, giving each potential seedling a chance to get out from under the shade of its parent tree and find an environment where it can thrive.
For a fun lesson on how the samara’s shape allows it to fly, head on over to the NASA education section. Yes, NASA. Being the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, they know a thing or two about stuff that flies.