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Almost everyone recognizes the maple leaf from the Canadian flag, if not from trees themselves. The opposite, usually palmate leaves are a good pattern for recognizing maples. Only the box elder (Acer negundo) has a different type of leaf. Many people will also remember tossing the winged seeds into the air to make "helicopters." If you examine the flowers in springtime, you will find 4 or 5 separate sepals, sometimes colored like petals, and 4 or 5 (sometimes 0) separate petals. The flowers are typically, but not always, unisexual, with male and female blossoms appearing in separate blossoms, often on separate trees. Male flowers have 4 to 10 stamens. In female flowers the ovary is positioned superior and consists of 2 united carpels with partition walls usually present. The ovary matures as two winged seeds, called samaras. Based on genetic evidence, taxonomists reclassified the traditional Maple family as part of the Soapberry family. The genera Dipteronia is native to China. Note that the ash (Fraxinus) of the Olive family has somewhat similar seeds.
Key Words: Trees with opposite leaves and winged seeds in pairs.
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