Flying Helicopter Seeds


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.

I have lots more science experiments for autumn you might like and some autumn STEM challenges too!

Which trees have helicopter seeds?

Ash – one wing, these hang in bunches from the tree.

Helicopter seeds on an Ash tree

Norway Maple

Norway maple seeds

Sycamore – symmetrical wings in a V shape

Sycamore seed on a tree

Make your own seed helicopter

You’ll recognise these as simple paper spinners, but they work really well for demonstrating this kind of seed dispersal.

Sycamore seeds hanging on a tree

You’ll need


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.

Template for a paper spinner to demonstrate seed dispersal

Hold the spinner as high as you can and drop.

Watch as the helicopter spins to the ground just like a seed.

Investigation ideas

Try dropping different size helicopters from the same point and height and measure how far they travel from the drop point.

Drop the helicopters inside and outside, does the wind make difference?

Add extra weight to the helicopter and try the investigation again.

Do smaller helicopters spin faster than large helicopters?

Print the experiment instructions

Instructions for a seed dispersal activity

Investigation sheet

seed helicopter write up sheet

If you need a bit of help identifying different trees, try this Tree Identification app from The Woodland Trust.

seed helicopter science activity - great autumn science for kids and perfect for learning about seed dispersal.

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