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June 2008 Volume 10 , Issue 6 submit to us!

by Jim Whitaker -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

There are 3,116,750 maple tree whirlybird seeds crowded into my house's rain gutters even as we speak. That is, if we are speaking. I'm writing. You're reading. Or are you speaking? If you're speaking, then you're not reading. And if I'm speaking then I'm not writing. Then you're not reading if I'm not writing. I forgot what we were speaking about.

Anyway, no matter what you and I are doing there are 3,116,750 maple tree whirlybird seeds crowded into my house's rain gutters.

Unbelievable, huh? I know this precise tally because I gathered the extension ladder, set it against the house, climbed up to the gutters – of course using the gutters as a sturdy handhold except for that one on the south side I'll reattach sometime soon – and counted each individual whirlybird by hand … one whirlybird, two whirlybird, one dead squirrel, three whirlybird … Then I descended – although not necessarily by way of the ladder, thank goodness for nice cushiony downspouts – put the ladder back into storage, walked into the house and asked my wife hey, just why didn't she remind me to clean the maple tree whirlybirds out of the gutters while I was up there.

Her response is somehow lost to history.

I'll confess. I didn't count each maple tree seed by hand. I have better things to do for seven weeks or so.

However, I did, utilizing someone else's research of course, calculate a realistic and accurate estimation of the maple copters using our rain gutters as nurseries.

A maple tree seed is marvelous evidence of intelligent design. I know God made them because no maple tree is smart enough to figure them out for itself. (For those of you who lean to evolution, I'm sure chance and accident would have placed little landing wheels at the bottom of the seeds, thus proving Darwinism more mechanically specific than Creation.)

The asymmetrical maple seeds have "blades" that set them into automatic rotation as soon as they ripen and drop from the tree. Propelled by a tender breeze or a jet-fueled gust, the seeds by way of lift and the mass of the seed being situated at one end of the blade, rotate to the welcoming earth below and miraculously end up with their ends down in tomato patches, lawns, sidewalk cracks, hanging flower pots and rain gutters. (And if you pick the seeds from the trees before they ripen they make great monkey squirts, too. Splrrrriiiit!)

Now let's get down to business.

According to maple tree information I painstakingly gathered from someone else's research – well, they shouldn't have left it just lying around on the internet – an 8-inch-diameter maple tree can launch 91,000 copter seeds per season.

I have to reckon on my own that's somewhere around 11,375 some odd seeds per inch of tree trunk – if that's the way it works anyway.

We have 14 maple trees surrounding our house, ranging from 40 to 70 years old, various distances from the house, including the one I bang into going out the front door. That's a lot of inches of maple tree. In fact, this means, according to stated growth rates, we have standing over and near our house in the range of 274 inches – diameter wise – of seed-bearing maple trees. Never mind the maple-locust-oak forest encroaching on our backyard from the western four acres of brush and timber that we haven't cut for 23 years.

Therefore, our property bears the potential of 3,116,750 whirling, swirling maple seeds – or 510 pounds – targeted exclusively at our rain gutters, natural magnets for falling clutter.

All right. I'll concede some of the seeds likely fell elsewhere than into our gutters. I'm sure 1,000 or 2,000 of our maple tree helicopters blew down the county road a half mile or so to the neighbor's gutters.

But who's counting?

Some information for this column was provided by the NASA John Glenn Learning Technologies Project and The Resource Center Cornell University. See? I didn't make it ALL up.

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Features -- June 2008 -- Beginning Month Issue

Jim Whitaker
-- Additional Work --