What Kind of Tree make Helicopter Seeds

Do you know What kind of tree make Helicopter Seeds? If you live in North America then You will say Maple tree. Most of you are familiar with The Box Elder Tree. It is a common maple that produces these swirlies or the Helicopter seeds. Every maple Tree produces two-winged helicopter seeds along with Sycamores. Although they are not alone especially if you consider single winged seeds as helicopters. Some varieties of firs and Pines also produce lightweight seeds that can flow freely with the wind.

Ash trees, hoptrees, Empress tree, and Jacaranda Tree also produce winged helicopter seeds. There are a variety of Helicopters known with differences in shape size and flow pattern. We usually consider doubled-winged Maple seed as helicopter seed. Although you can also find single-winged, spiral, circular, and flat oval helicopter seeds in different trees.

What Kind of Tree make Helicopter Seeds
What Kind of Tree make Helicopter Seeds?- maple, Sycamore, and a few others.

Why Do Some Vegetables Have Seeds and Others Don’t

What are Helicopter Seeds?

Every seed that can fly or flow with the wind in a rotatory fashion is a helicopter seed. This is not a botanical term instead in Botany such seeds are known as Samaras. Samara is not a seed instead it is a lightweight non-fleshy dry fruit. These Samara fruits contain one or more seeds.

Every Samaras especially maple seeds are the Helicopter seed. Helicopter seeds have many common names including Whirligigs, Swirlies, Whirlybirds, wing-nut, Spinning Jenny, Whirlers, or Twisters. Among all other trees with Helicopter seeds Red, Silver, and Norway maples often produce the largest quantities of helicopters.

Most maples produce samara fruits in pairs. Each of them contains only one seed and is conjoint to their ends.  The pairs of samara fruits create the famous helicopter effect while dropping during the autumn season. The light double-winged structure helps the fruit to float with the wind to distant places away from the mother plant. These seeds float and fall with a swirly rotary effect that looks great.

Why are Helicopter seeds Important?

Helicopter seeds are a treat for the eyes. Every age group likes them and refers to these seeds as helicopters. These are the most playful natural toys one can ever find on a camping or family picnic in the woods. They are important to conserve the heritage both of social and botanical history.

These helicopter seeds are the food source for many animals and birds. Small seeds are a delicacy for the birds and the big ones are for squirrels and chipmunks. The trees that produce these seeds are also very important for their ecosystem.

These big trees provide food and shelter for a range of creatures from birds to microbes. They live, feed, and reproduce in these trees. These big 40 to 60 feet trees have a dense root system that holds and protects the soil from erosion. They also provide shade for you and your family to enjoy warm summer days out in the woods.

The Helicopter seed as well as the tree dies back, at last, to feed the microbes and enrich the soil for the next generations.

Different Types of Helicopter Seeds?

Double winged helicopter seeds are very common with maple and Sycamore trees. Though there are a few others that need to be known.  Every samara fruit is a helicopter seed. Although only a few of them can show the true twister effect with blowing winds. Others are big and heavier to flow with the wind.

The shape and structure also affect their flow. Comparatively single winged helicopters travel shorter distances than double-winged helicopters. Also, big flat bean-shaped samaras drop to the ground instead of being carried away by the wind due to their weight.

You can find different types of helicopter seeds in the woods. The most common of them are categorized as-

  • Double Winged Helicopters seeds. Maples and Sycamore trees have these double-winged helicopter seeds.
  • Single Winged Helicopters seeds. Some Firs, Pines, Ash, and Tipu trees have these helicopter seeds.
  • Spiral or Twisted Helicopter Seeds. Infamous and invasive Tree of heaven produces these Spiral Helicopter Samara seeds.
  • Circular Helicopter Seeds. Common hoptrees produce small circular helicopter seeds with a single seed in the center.

Trees that Make Helicopter Seeds

All of us a familiar with Maple trees. Their beautiful leaves and eye-catching whirly seeds are well known to everyone. Box Elder maple tree is a popular variant that produces double-winged helicopter seeds.

You can find Helicopter seeds in Sycamore, Maple (Acer sp.), ash (Fraxinus sp.), hoptree (Paulownia sp.), empress tree (Ailanthus sp.), jacaranda (Jacaranda sp.), Hakeas, Banksias, and Casuarina Trees.

All of them produce light samara fruits that whirl with the flowing wind. Although they differ a lot in shape, size, and structure, their functioning is quite the same. The seeds drop off during autumn and float to a distant location with the wind. The aerodynamic shape of these helicopter seeds helps them glide instead of falling instantly on the floor. They twist and glide with the flowing wind and this twister effect gives them the name helicopter seeds.

Also read: Can Grass Grow in Sand?

Sycamore Trees

These tall trees produce v-shaped double-winged samara fruits. Each small wing is 20-44mm in length with a single seed at its end. The speed ranges from 5 to 10mm or a maximum of 1cm in diameter. It is a common woodland tree in the UK and other parts of Europe. It was introduced in the 17th century and since then it is found all over the country.

Ash Trees

The Green Ash tree is a beautiful tree that belongs to the Ash family Fraxinus. Every member of this family produces winged samara fruits though green Ash is the most popular one.

The Botanical name of Green Ash Tree is Fraxinum pennsylvanica. It is a 60-70 feet tall tree with medium-green foliage and gray-brown bark. The leaves turn yellow to brown in Autumn. These trees bloom from April through may producing the delicate single-winged samara fruits. Ash trees produce papery samara fruits in clusters. These fruits are the helicopter seed we all know. They fall off once they dry out. The wind carries these floating helicopters to distant growing locations.

Maple Trees

Almost every maple tree produces v-shaped double-winged helicopter seeds. These seeds make a broader V-shape than Sycamore seeds. They are comparatively smaller in size with only 20 mm in length. Field Maple, Box Elder Maple, Red maple, and Silver maple are some of the know maple varieties that can yield the most seeds every year.

Red maple is good to grow in a dry field whereas Silver maple trees are best for waterfronts. They can sustain high tide and rise water levels for a long keeping the soil safe from erosion. Box Elder Trees are best for a wild look and shade. All of them are common throughout the US.

Sometimes they can become trouble for the residents of the area. The fallen seeds can clog the drainage and occupy every possible damp spot. They can germinate really quickly even in the rooftop drainage holes leading to bottlenecks in drains. They are a problem in some cases though not bad enough to get rid of. Only you have to get ready with the rake to clean off the lawn and uproot unwanted seedlings from your garden after fall.

Norway Maple or Harlequin Maple

The Norway maple or harlequin maple is not a native variety. They produce bigger 50mm or 5 cm long v-shaped double-winged helicopter seeds. Each wing is 10-15mm broad. It is a decorative tree variety that is common in parks and community gardens.
This tree has become a threat to native maple varieties due to its ability to survive in shade. It can germinate and grow in full shade without much trouble. Once it grows tall it creates dense foliage on the top. This dense canopy prevents sunlight to reach the ground hence killing native maple seeds.

Japanese maple

Japanese maple is also a foreign variety. It is not a native plant and is grown mostly for decorative purposes. The beautiful purple-green foliage is the attraction of the Japanese maple trees. It is a relatively smaller tree with only 15 to 25 feet in height with a similar width. These trees produce beautiful small red-purple flowers that give 1/2 inch long v-shaped samara fruits.

Winged Elm

The Winged Elm tree or Ulmus alata is a deciduous tree that produced Helicopter seeds.
These trees can grow up to 6 feet tall and 30 feet wide. they have a round or oval canopy with small dark green seeds. It produces small red flowers in late winter and relatively small flattened samara fruits with hairy margins. The the bark of Winged Elm tree is also very attractive. It can have red-brown to ash grey colors.

Common HopTree

The Hop tree or Ptelea trifoliata is a small shrub with only 15 to 20 feet in height. It is grown as a flowering hedge due to its dark green and shiny leaves. The Rounded canopy of the structure makes it attractive for edge cover. It produces fragrant flowers during fall. The blooms pollinate to produce helicopter seeds or samaras. These helicopter seeds are unique as they are circular, not long or winged. These seeds glide off with air to 10 to 20 feet away from the tree.

Tree Of Heaven

Ailanthus altissima is a noxious invasive tree. It is known as the tree of Heaven due to its beautiful spiral samaras. These fruits are the helicopters that swirl away from their parent plant with the help of wind. these trees can grow up to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide.

Other Trees with Helicopter seeds includes-

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) The flowers look like tulips and hence the tree gets its name. It can take up to 15 years to mature enough to start blooming. The Tree can grow to 100 feet high and 40 feet wide. These trees have bright green to yellow 4 to 8 inch long leaves and green flowers with an orange center. The flowers are 2 to 3 inches long. It produces samaras or helicopter seeds in conical clusters.

Tipu tree or Tipuana tipu produces long flat bean pod-like samaras. Each Samara fruit contains a single seed at its end attached to the branch. these trees can grow up to 60 feet tall. They produce beautiful yellow flowers during late summer.

Empress Tree and jacarandas also produce samaras or Helicopter seeds. Although they don’t glide to distances.

Australian varieties of Hakeas, Banksias, and Casuarinas do produce helicopter seeds although they are not true samaras.


Hi, My name is Sukant. I am an I.T professional. Gardening for me is not just a hobby, it's a way of living life with nature. My Ancestors were Commercial farmers: So I personally feel attached to the green. I am not an expert, I'm here only to share my gardening experiences. It's always Refreshing.

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