Helicopter seeds are a type of seed that spin as they fall from a tree. The spinning movement and the fact that they are light and can catch the wind allows them to travel further from the parent tree than if they just dropped to the floor.
This is one method of seed dispersal used by plants and trees to reduce the amount of competition around the parent plant for light, water and nutrients.
This activity uses simple paper spinners to demonstrate how helicopter seeds fall from a tree.
Which trees have helicopter seeds?
Ash Trees – these helicopter seeds have one wing and hang in bunches from the tree.
Sycamore – symmetrical wings in a V shape
Make your own seed helicopter
You’ll recognise these as simple paper spinners from a previous science activity, but they work really well for demonstrating this kind of seed dispersal.
Paper clip or hair clip
How to make a helicopter spinner
Cut out a rectangle from paper like the image below using scissors. Any size works well.
Cut down the dotted lines and attach the two ends together with a paper clip.
Hold the spinner as high as you can and drop.
Watch as the helicopter spins to the ground just like a seed.
Try dropping different-sized helicopters from the same point and measure how far they travel from the drop point.
Drop the helicopters inside and outside. Design an investigation to find out If the wind makes a difference to how far they travel.
Add extra weight to the helicopter and try the investigation again.
Do smaller helicopters spin faster than large helicopters?
Print the experiment instructions
Another idea for learning about a different type of seed dispersal is to make a sticky seed pod!
If you need a bit of help identifying different trees, try this Tree Identification app from The Woodland Trust.
Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Emma Vanstone