Research

How Maple Seeds Fly

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Maple tree seeds flutter and spin as they descend. The above video, which shows flow visualization of a freely falling seed, demonstrates that the so-called helicopter seed’s autorotation creates a vortex along the leading edge.  Watch as the seed’s “wing” sweeps through and you will notice the vortex along the upper surface. This leading edge vortex generates high lift on the maple seed, allowing it to stay in the air more effectively than other seeds, thereby increasing the maple’s reproductive range. (Video credit: D. Lentink et al.; see also Supplemental Materials)

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