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Seedpod autorotates: sycamore


Sycamore maple seed / Kobako / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

Samara of the sycamore autorotates due to curved shape.

"European maples and sycamores have an even more economical design. They are equipped with only a single wing, sprouting from one side. The balance between the weight of the seed and the length of the wing is so accurately matched that these seeds also spinEven in a light breeze their tiny spinning helicopters can travel for very long distances across thecountryside." (Attenborough 1995:19)

"Winged seeds or fruits…can be placed into one of two categories—plane-winged, in which the seed coat or fruit wall grows more or less symmetrically with respect to its longitudinal axis and generates a linear gliding flight, and autogyroscopically winged, in which lift is created by wings on the propagule that permit autorotation during free-fall…The behavior of autogyroscopic seeds and fruits is remarkably similar to that of a helicopter and results from the combination of angle of attack and sideslip generated by the slightly curved blade of fruit wing or seed wing. The local speeds developed at the tip of the wing are relatively high and, together with the corresponding moments, produce great dynamic stability. When viewed from above and below, the rotating wing sweeps out a shallow conical section with an area Ap (Figure 9.10). The angle subtending the longitudinal axis of the fruit or seed and the horizontal plane is the coning angle ß, the equilibrium condition between the centrifugal forces acting on the rotating wing (which produce a turning moment tending to force the wing into a horizontal position) and aerodynamic forces (which tend to displace the wing into the vertical position). Thus the coning angle is the result of moments due to centrifugal and aerodynamic forces." (Niklas 1992:461,463)
About the inspiring organism
Med_397pxmapleseed Acer pseudoplatanus
Acer pseudoplatanus L.
Common name: Sycamore maple

Habitat(s): Forest
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_NE IUCN Red List Status: Not Evaluated

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Design that optimizes air and water flow for mechanical devices. Fans for cooling or moving air to increase efficiency of heaters. Improved dispersal/efficiency for aerially applied products, airships, MAVS.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Small appliances, aviation, transportation, mechanics (air and water flow)

Niklas, K. J. 1992. Plant Biomechanics: An Engineering Approach to Plant Form and Function. University Of Chicago Press. 622 p.
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Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
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over 6 years ago
Thanks to Duarte Miguel Prazeres for finding and uploading this photo.
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