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Whirlybirds are simple happy things. They are best enjoyed when laying on your back in the grass on a breezy day under a maple tree. I could watch them twirl forever.

Those papery little wings have it all figured out. It's an easy, dreamy life for a maple seed pod. Somehow their whirling flight patterns battle gravity and keep them aloft. They slowly careen through the air as if they're surveying the ground for the perfect place to take root. Those rotating wings cause a tiny tornado to emerge from the pod's leading edges, creating a vortex that sucks the seed upward. Caught up in their own whirlwind, they can fly like this for miles. Hummingbirds and moths use the same trick. The whirlybird's aerodynamic flight characteristics have inspired designs for turbines, aircraft wings, helicopters, parachutes and space exploring robots. The best designs are found in nature.

Now that it is spring, whirlybirds are out in droves. Remember when you were a kid, and you'd toss a great big grip of them into the air, just to watch what happens? For Earth Day, (or for any day, really) let's do that again.

P.S.: Oooh!


  1. awww this entry made me smile. :) i can't wait until all this work is gone and i can just lay in the grass all day.

    p.s. loving that maple seed necklace! such a creative idea.

  2. Johanna, I love your blog! Just had to say that after this entry...

  3. i just found your blog, and your words + photos are so lovely and sweet. and i love that helicopter necklace!

    xo Alison

  4. I love these simple, complex little things, with their genes all geared for flight and seeding.

    I'd never been around many maple trees til we moved here, and the first spring, when I was doing longlong walks around the neighborhood, one morning I came upon a great nightfall of piles of the pods drifted all across the sidewalk. There were thousands, just lying there, and I went WAY round in the street, for it would have felt like stepping on small green fish.

    And any excuse for lying in the grass---that's a good thing.

  5. you do make me smile, johanna. you + whirlybirds are a perfect perfect combo of business & pleasure!


  6. Hi Johanna, I just ran across this tiny thing and thought of you, sorry I didn't know where else to send you the link.


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