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Monday, April 25, 2011

Maple Seed Test

What is the first thing you think of when you see all these seeds on a maple tree?

If you answered "there are many tree weedlings in your future", you may be a bit of a pessimist, or a perhaps a realist.

If you answered "those samaras are so interesting, I just love to see them twirl as the fly off in the wind", you may be a bit of an optimist or perhaps are choosing to ignore all the tree weedlings in someone's future.

Regardless of your first thought, I'm sure your second thought was to wonder why the botanists moved the maple trees from their own family, Aceraceae, to the plant family Sapindaceae, which you never heard of until you looked it up.

The Sapindaceae family, commonly called the Soapberry family, also includes horse chestnuts, the most common of which is the buckeye tree, Aesculus glabra, the state tree of our neighbors to the east in Ohio.  In fact, we call people from Ohio "buckeyes".

In case you are wondering, the state tree of Indiana is the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, which is in the Magnolia family, Magnoliaceae. However, we do not call people from Indiana "tulips".  We call them "hoosiers" which has nothing to do with trees at all.

Getting back on track... the maple seeds above are on a red maple, Acer rubrum, in my backyard and someday I'm sure I'll be pulling up a lot of tree weedlings. In the meantime, I hope to never lose the fascination of seeing those seeds twirl to the ground or the interest in plant names, families, and relationships.

15 comments:

Donna said...

When they float down they are fascinating but once they land they are trouble....

Ellada said...

I know that tree, but I never see one in real.

K said...

What? They did? Well, dagnabbit, botanical nomenclature is either getting as bad as geography for changing things around when you aren't looking, or I'm getting old, since all those names and families I learned in University are apparently changing....

And yes, I do foresee a lot of weeding in your future :)

tangledbranches said...

%#*& taxonomists. When did they do that?

The red maple seeds are starting to fall here.

Layanee said...

I was wondering if those samaras are ripe enough to peel and stick on my nose. We did that when we were kids. I don't like that new classification. I protest.

Gail said...

Carol, I love watching the helicopters flutter to the ground~That's what we called the samaras. There are no maple trees in my garden~But, a few seeds blew into the Susan's bed from my neighbors yard. Not where I want a maple tree! gail

commonweeder said...

When I see those maple seeds I wonder whether children still pick them up, pull apart the seed end and stick them on their noses. Did you ever do that? I did and sometimes I can hardly keep myself from doing it now.In private.

Delisa said...

Please tell me that you're running late with your April fools post. Not only did I not know that Acers are now somehow related to soapberries, I also was still living in the age when Aesculus belonged in the Hippocastinaceae family. What's the world coming to?

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp said...

When I see maple seeds, I think of the work samara, a word I learned from studying Frank Lloyd Wright. What do taxonomists know any how?

Kathy said...

Turn your back for a minute and they're changing another botanical family. I guess I'm an optimist, because I think of how neat they are first, and then think of the weediness.

LostRoses said...

Hi Carol, your post made me hungry. It's about the buckeyes...and yes I was born in Ohio but what that word means to me is delicious peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate and wax. They are yummy and take hours to make so I only do it at Xmas. People fight over my cookie plates to get the buckeyes (they may not know about the paraffin). And you thought this was a gardening post. :)

Janet said...

"Samara?" — Carol, Carol, Carol, I think you've been hanging out 'wit them there fancy talking people — down here in Greenwood, the scientific name is "helicopters." Obviously Gail (comment above) knows of what she speaks.

Thanks for a fun and informative read!

Helen said...

Our kids put the samaras on their noses, too. It's funny that no one has yet mentioned rhinoceroseseses -- which is what you are when you have a maple key on your nose.

Jenn said...

They did what? Sigh.

I need to visit here more often, I'm glad you keep up with this stuff.

Jenn said...

One thing about the current nomenclature changes - they are based now on genomes, so HOPEFULLY they are getting closer to settling down. At least with these huge, mind-boggling category shifts...

Chestnuts and maples, really? Those seeds could not appear farther apart.

Hoooom.