MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whirligigs? Helicopter seeds? Or perhaps the scientific name – samaras — for the silver maple seeds flying in yards this spring.
Whatever you call them, some WCCO-TV viewers have reached out asking why so many are coming down this year. Good Question.
“You’re not crazy,” says Eli Sagor, a University of Minnesota Extension Educator.
He says he’s heard the reports of more maple seeds this year, but has also seen many trees – his own included – produce the amount they normally do.
“There’s a lot of variability from year to year, variability from tree to tree,” he says. “Some people are seeing a ton, some are saying, ‘ah, it’s an average year,’ just depends where you are, what trees you’re looking at.”
Sagor says it’s a bit of mystery as to why some silver maples drop more leaves that normal, but researchers have a few theories.
Silver maples usually drop the same number of seeds each year. Then seed predators, like squirrels, deer and mice, get used to that amount and eat them up. So, every four to five years, trees focus on extra seed production.
“You can overwhelm those seed predators and that means more of your seeds will be able to fall to the ground, get a good spot and be ready to go,” he says.
Sagor says research in Minnesota and Wisconsin have not shown weather to be driving seed production. He says access to water and sunlight don’t appear to have much of an impact either.
One thing to look out for is stress on trees because extra seed production can happen before a tree is about to die. But, Sagor says he doesn’t believe that’s what’s happening to the vast majority of silver maples this year. He says as long as the crown and tree look healthy, people shouldn’t worry that a tree is stressed.
And, if you’re concerned that extra seeds might ultimately mean a new maple tree growing in your year, Sagor says don’t be. Any seeds that fall in the lawn will likely be mowed up. You’ll also likely pick out any weeds if one of the seeds takes in your garden.