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Word of the Week: Samara
June 25, 2019 by Jon Hayes & Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Word of the week is Samara [ SAM-er-uh ](noun): A winged, dry fruit containing one seed.

The summer sun is out and shining, making it a perfect time to explore High Park’s forested areas. If you wander down the dirt paths, you might notice small and green things that are gently spinning around and around, like the rotor of a helicopter, as they come down from the sky. They could land by your feet or on a nearby rock. Either way, in taking a closer look, you realize that it is the seed of a maple tree!

Most famously produced by maples trees, samaras are also called keys, wingnuts, helicopters, whirlybirds, whirligigs, and (in the north of England) spinning Jenny’s due to their ability to spin in the wind. The spinning motion slows their fall and drift, helping the samara get further away from their parent tree. Some other trees that produce samaras include elm and ash.

Many of the kids who attend are program are excited to see samaras on the ground, or coming down from the sky. They’ll quickly pick them up to throw them up in the air and watch them fall again. We’ve also seen them part the area that contains the one seed to stick the samara on their noses, pretending to be a Rhinoceros. As an adult, watching the kids interact in this way with the samaras, you are reminded of your childhood where you would find yourself doing and enjoying the exact same thing!

Keep and eye out for Samaras spinning down from the sky on your next High Park visit!

FUN FACT: The word “samara” has been used since at least 1577 and translates in Latin to “seed of the elm.”

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