For several weeks the red flower buds of Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) have been swelling, preparing to open and expose their flowers to the wind, their pollinating agent. While Silver Maple can have both male and female flowers on the same tree, (monoecious) it much more commonly has flowers of only one sex (dioecious). Less than 10 percent of flowering plant species have male and female flowers on separate trees — the other 90 percent combine both sexes in one plant.
The pictured branch of Silver Maple bears only male flowers, each possessing several pollen-loaded stamens. Like many wind-pollinated flowers, Silver Maple’s flowers have no flashy petals to attract insects, rather they lack them entirely, as they would only get in the way of pollen dispersal. Like other maples, if fertilized, the female flowers develop winged fruit referred to as samaras. Silver Maple samaras are larger than those of any other native maple species.
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