Here at Riverwood, we’re fortunate to have a variety of maple trees, including the sugar, maple, red, Norway, and Manitoba. All of these maple trees produce winged seeds called samaras. You can often find squirrels stretching and balancing on the trees to reach them for a snack. Cardinals, grosbeaks, and some finches and chipmunks also enjoy these maple treats.
On your next trip to Riverwood, perhaps for a Canada Day outing, you should be able to find some samaras on the ground beneath maple trees. Here are a few fun things you can do with them:
Divide the samara in two. Use a marker to label one side “up” and the other “down”. Hold the “up” half seed-side up and the “down” half seed-side down. Hold them both up from the same height and predict which one will land first. Let ‘em go and test your hypothesis. You can learn more about the physics of samaras, a natural helicopter, in this video from the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Grow your own maple tree
Find a dry samara and plant the seed in a small pot of soil. Make sure to keep the wing above the soil. Then take a plastic water bottle, cut it in half, keep the bottom part, and recycle the top. Place the bottom half of the water bottle over the wing to create a mini greenhouse. Leave the pot in a sunny window, and you should see the seed germinate after about 10 days. At that point, remove the water bottle cover. Continue to water your new tree indoors, and plant it outdoors next spring.
Origami maple samaras
Use your newfound love of samaras (you love them now, right?) to craft a unique piece of origami. Once you’ve made a paper samara – outlined in the video below – try dropping the paper version alongside a real samara from the same height to see which one reaches the ground faster.
Mix some maple syrup into a summer salad
We’d be remiss not to offer some sort of connection to maple syrup in a blog post like this. Right now maple trees are busy making sugars that will be harvested in sap next spring. But maple syrup is tasty any time of the year! Here’s a Haudenosaunee recipe from Six Nations chef Aicha Smith-Belghaba that uses maple syrup in a traditional mixed berry salad. The recipe calls for lyed corn, but if you can’t find any, try substituting fresh corn instead.
However you’re marking today, all of us at The Riverwood Conservancy wish you a Happy Canada Day!