Bigleaf maples: zillions of flower clusters

It's April. Flower clusters by the zillions hang from bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) everywhere west of the Cascades.

Look closely at a bigleaf maple near you. No leaves are out yet. The flower clusters emerge before the leaves do, drooping straight down just below where the super-sized leaves will soon come out.

Right now, the flowers in the clusters are light green. Soon, they will turn bright white and look more like bona fide flowers.

After pollination, the flowers gradually turn yellow and dry out but remain on the trees, lasting easily to June.

By then, the bright-green fully leafed trees will be interlaced with a profusion of yellow streaks of the drying yellow flower clusters.

What happens to these flower clusters? Assuming the flowers are pollinated, each flower cluster turns into a seed cluster--a pendulous mass of double helicopter-seeds that ripen in the fall. Find out more about the helicopter-seeds here.

Once you find a bigleaf maple, check the flower clusters now. Then, check them again several times throughout the summer.  You'll love the changes that you see!

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