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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Friday - December 04, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: When do bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) seeds mature and fall?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, In answer to a previous question, you said that Bigtooth Maple samaras come ripe around August-September. Recently, I went to Lost Maples State Natural Area, and in their display, it says that they start dropping in spring. That was the only reference I have seen to the seeds dropping in spring, are the maples of that area different than others, or was their display inaccurate?

ANSWER:

In all the sources (e.g., U. S. Forest Service, Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of the Southwest by R. A. Vines, Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country, by Jan Wrede) I could find with botanical and ecological information about Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple) the time of seed maturation was given as in the Fall.  Here is a quote from the U.S. Forest Service page:  "Samaras begin to form in May and mature by August or September... Samaras drop from the trees between mid-August and early October."  So, curious about the difference in what you saw in the display at Lost Maples State Natural Area and the information in my sources, I decided to call the park and get the "truth".  I spoke to Bill Bailey, the Lead Ranger, at the Lost Maples State Natural Area who told me that, indeed, the samaras mature and drop in the Fall.  We aren't sure what you saw in the displays that made you think it was in the Spring.  The seeds do germinate in the Spring so, perhaps there was a statement that wasn't completely clear, for instance—"the samaras fall and then germinate in the Spring."

 

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