The wonders of tree seeds

Do you ever think about trees and the seed they produce? Homeowners will often clean their gutters and realize they are clogged with Maple 'helicopters' which are technically samaras seeds. Arborists and environmentalists often consider tree health, physiology, and mitigating environmental stressors in the urban forest as they are thinking about tree attributes. However, most people don't necessarily notice tree seeds or think about their importance.

Seeds are very tiny structures that contain the genetic material necessary to produce a giant sequoia. They are packed with enough energy to burst into the world and thrive while organizing and producing roots and shoots.

Have you ever wondered why some seeds fly like an eagle while others drop like a bowling ball? You will know what I mean if you live near a cottonwood tree. In late spring or early summer, the screens on your windows may become covered with cotton. Those are the seeds that fly like an eagle.

Oak trees, as well as chestnut and hickories, are the bowling balls. Their seed drops straight down, and they rely on the deer, squirrels, turkey, and bears to disperse them.

Then, there are other seeds that I like to refer to as 'tweeners.' They have both going for them. They can fly and are nutritious, so forest creatures move them far beyond their flight potential. The native Basswood tree is an example of the 'tweener' seeds. These seeds are born on a stalk that develops a leaf-like structure, which allows the wind to carry them away from the parent tree.

Well, I hope you enjoyed learning more about tree seeds!

Stay tuned for more fun facts about the fascinating wonders found within our outdoor spaces.

Phil G., Director of Horticulture and Forestry, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy