Sidewalk Nature: Maple Flower Flurries

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male flowers of the sugar maple

Maple flower flurries.

No sitting on the porch with a teacup today: falling flowers flit past the brim despite my hand as cover.

This is one of those milestones of spring easily missed, especially if you don’t happen to live or walk or park under a Sugar Maple.
I love this moment. It helps make up for the maple flowers leaving, and the maple leaves coming.
If I pay attention to all the steps—from bud to budburst to flower to leaf to fruit—spring feels slower, more manageable, less panicked.

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maple flower flurries and a few redbud blossoms

What’s falling are the male flowers of the Sugar Maple. See the anthers at the tips of the strings? They’ve done their job of releasing pollen to the wind and to female maple flowers. The females stay put and will start to swell into fruit any minute. We should have plenty of helicopters this summer.

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female Sugar maple flowers

Here’s a picture of the female flowers emerging on March 30th, only 10 days ago. Those yellow “V” stigmas will help make the twin samaras / keys / granny glasses / helicopters.

Tidy folks hate when maple seeds germinate in the lawn—sometimes by the hundreds—but tidy folks need to realize this is not a problem. The little seedlings surrender at the first mowing, and become good food for the soil.

And all this adds up to another chapter in Sidewalk Nature. You can tell where you are in the year just by looking down.

The next flurry expected will be of redbud blossoms. Our sidewalks are already confettied in pink and white from Japanese cherries. Also seen on sidewalks today: pyramids of round sweetgum flowers, tulip poplar bud scales, and a few silver maple samaras already emptied by squirrels.

What’s on the sidewalk near you?

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