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khalulu, kanji

khalulu in hp_britglish

tree seed helicopters?

Where I grew up in the US, there are maple trees and their seeds have little wings on them - they come in pairs - and when they fall from the tree, they twirl and spin on their way to the ground. We called them helicopters. Are there trees in England with that kind of seed, and what do people call them? (The distinctive type of twirling seed - I'm sure there's a scientific name, but I'm looking for what kids etc would know them as.)

ETA: Sycamore helicopters and whirligigs, then! Thanks for the speedy help!


Sycamore trees have seeds like that, and they're very common. (Photos) I called the seeds helicopters as a child, too.
thanks for the photo - that's exactly what I meant!
Ditto ditto.
Sycamores (which are, according to Wikipedia, a type of maple) have seeds like that; I think I referred to them as helicopters as a child. The Natural History Museum in London has (or had when I was a child and visited it with my parents, at least) an area downstairs where you could make your own - there were bits of paper which you cut and folded as directed to make the winged shape, and then could drop them from a high-up area and watch them spin around.
cool! yes, from the picture someone else sent, they look very like maple seeds.
Field Maple is reasonably common, and also has seeds like that. Both those and that of the sycamore are called 'helicopters' or were when I went to school 50 years ago.
Sycamore trees are like that, and I called them helicopters, too.
You may also find that some Britons refer to them as whirligigs; as a child, I referred to sycamore seeds as whirligigs, but I can recall adults calling them whirligigs.
Whirligig! I knew there was another name for them when I was growing up, but couldn't think what it was.

We did call them helicopters too, though. (From maples in our case, since there's one in front of the house. But sycamores too, at school and such.)
oh, that's useful - might be a better term for non-Muggle accustomed wizards to use.
This is actually relevant to one of JKR's lesser-noticed puns.

Remember the winged keys in book 1?

Those are actually references to the 'keys' of maple and other trees.

didn't know they were called keys, too! thanks.
The term 'keys' are typically used for the seeds of the ash tree. This has single winged seeds rather than the paired seeds of sycamore and maple.

Weird Coincidence

Two days ago, my Merriam Webster Word of the Day was "samara", which coincidentally is the exact type of seed you're referring to. It stuck with me because I'd never heard it as anything but a girl's name before and it was my very first Word of the Day e-mail.

The e-mail said:

samara \SAM-uh-ruh\


a dry indehiscent usually one-seeded winged fruit (as of an ash or elm tree)


Pairs of samaras grew along the maple tree's branches.

"The samara looks much like a tiny green round ravioli, or those dots of explosive caps for toy guns of the past. These are the fruit of the elmtree, with the seed forming a reddish bump in the middle." — From an article by Marilyn Sallee, posted February 22nd, 2011, on the Native Plant Society of Texas web site


Not familiar with the term "samara" referring to the winged fruit of the elm, ash, maple, and sycamore, among other trees? Then how about "key," "whirlybird," "helicopter," "whirligig," or "spinning jenny"? Those nicknames are all excellent descriptors of a samara. A samara resembles a key and when it falls its unique shape enables it to spin like a helicopter's rotor and drift away from its tree. Botanists began using the term "samara" in the late 16th century. In Latin, it means literally "seed of the elm."

Re: Weird Coincidence

Note that can't attest to the British use of any of these nicknames cited above as neither I nor the Webster are British.

On a different note, the maple's samaras look a lot like the wings of the Golden Snitch.

Re: Weird Coincidence

very cool! they do look snitch-like! (and not at all like green ravioli)

Re: Weird Coincidence

Yeah, not very ravioli-like, even when they're green!


it was very interesting to read. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can? And you et an account on Twitter?
It's fine with me if you quote the post. I don't have an account on Twitter.