Flight of the Maple Seeds

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One sunny, breezy day last week I was out on our back patio talking with my mother on the phone.  There was a near-constant clatter as winged maple seed pods hit the gutters.  They drifted down on the porch steps and onto Kiko, who was sleeping peacefully on the top step.  Although the sound of the seed shower was far louder than rain, it didn’t phase him.  For some reason he didn’t associate it with the approach of his fearsome nemesis, the thunder creature.  See here and here.

I held the phone out so Mama could hear the clickety-clacking.  She asked if I remembered how the maple seeds rained down in such abundance every spring at my grandparents’ house.  I don’t exactly remember the flight of the maple seeds there, but I certainly remember the big old trees.  The enormous silver maples that frame our Virginia house were a major reason the place felt immediately like home.  See here. 

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That was about a week ago.  The seeds continue to fall, in greater numbers than I can recall.  There are many more yet hanging on; from the look of the branches, it would appear that none have fallen.  Yesterday evening my husband spent a while shoveling the thick coating of seeds off the driveway.  That hasn’t been necessary since we lived here. 

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If there are many more seeds than usual, is that bad or good, or of no consequence?  I haven’t been able to find a clear answer.  One online source suggested a larger seed output may be a reaction to stress.  Sending out more seeds is an effort toward ensuring the survival of the species.  Sort of a maple tree insurance policy.  I hope this doesn’t mean our last two old trees are singing their swan song.  It’s not only the maples in our yard that are overproducing; all those around us seem to be doing likewise.  Whatever the reason, it looks like the helicopters will continue to swirl through the air and pile up on the ground for a while yet. 

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The accumulation of the seed pods around the bases of the trees reminds me of the cicada spring of 2004.  See here. 

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The design of the maple seed pod–a delicately veined, elongated angel wing, and its flight–are among nature’s awesome little marvels.  I love it that in the concrete base of our front porch, towards the center, there is one perfect imprint of a maple seed pod.  Every spring it finds plenty of company. 


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It’s hard not to track the maple seeds into the house on our shoes.  To bring them inside in a more pleasant way, this year I painted a floorcloth that depicts the seasonal output of the trees.  There are  buds in various stages, including their first appearance as tiny nubs on bare winter branches.  Of course I included seed pods and silvery green leaves.  Because the floorcloth is in a heavily trafficked area in the kitchen, it usually wears its share of three-dimensional debris, maple and otherwise.  Art, like life, tends to be messy. 

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