How to identify our most common helicopter seeds

what are helicopter seedss

Identifying Helicopter Seeds

In this tutorial, we will learn about how to identify helicopter seeds. 

Here in Ireland and the British Isles, you are most likely to find the following helicopter seeds:

  • Field maple
  • Norway maple
  • Sycamore
These three seeds may look very similar, but there are some easy ways to tell them apart. So, let’s take a look and learn a bit about them.

How to identify our helicopter seeds

field maple seeds

Field maple seeds

Field maple seeds have the greatest angle of the three and grow almost horizontally away from each other. Each seed is curved in an upward scoop from the bottom.

identifying helicopter seeds - norway maple seed

Norway maple seeds

Norway maple seeds also grow far apart from each other, but at a closer angle than field maple seeds. Each seed is broad at the tip and has a wavy appearance to its edges.

identifying sycamore seeds, what are helicopter seeds

Sycamore seeds

Compared to field maple and Norway maple, sycamore seeds are smaller and they grow much closer together. Each seed is rounded at the tip and curves outwards at the bottom.

What are helicopter seeds?

Have you ever asked yourself, what are helicopter seeds and why do they have wings?

Well, there are two types of flying seed – parachute seeds and winged seeds. Helicopter seeds are winged seeds. Their wings are single, stiff, flat membranes, which are attached to the actual ‘seed’ bit and designed to help the seed catch the wind as it falls from the tree and fly away. Theis helps it move away from its parent tree so it is not competing for food, water and sunlight.

The reason they are called helicopters is because of the way they spin as they fall from the tree. But, they have other names too, including spinning jennies, whirligigs and whirlibirds. But their proper name is a samara.

Have you ever wondered why maple seeds spin as they fall ? You can find out here.


Well, I hope you have enjoyed learning all about helicopter seeds? Do you remember their names? They are:

  • Field maple
  • Norway maple
  • Sycamore
We also learned about why they have wings, what their wings are, and some other names for them too.

Helicopter Seed Nature Study

Now it is time for your helicopter seed nature study. Are you ready?

Your first task, is to download the resource that accompanies this lesson.

Your second task, is to go out on a nature walk and try and find all three of the seeds we have just learnt about. I want you to:

  • Examine the shape of their wings
  • Look at the angle between the two wings in a joined up pair
  • Feel the texture of the wing around its different sides
  • Notice the size, shape and location of the ‘seed’ relative to the wing

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2 thoughts on “How to identify our most common helicopter seeds”

  1. Scott J Sanders

    Just noticed some helicopter seeds on my property and got curious which tree they came from. I checked my Silver Leaf Maples and found them under them, but not one on a branch! Although we’ve had a few storms lately this Spring. I marvel at their fractal patterns and just makes me think how All of Us are fractals as well, holistically connected. They are a beautiful exhibit of God’s eternal wonders. Thank you for the tutorial!

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