Can you identify these trees by their seed pods?

Seed pod quiz
Photo: mark higgins/Shutterstock

The seeds and seed pods of trees not only provide a tree with its means of reproduction, but they are also marvels of design and engineering. Can you match these beautiful pods and fruits to their trees?

Question 1 of 15

Score: 0

Sweet gum
Photo: Dan Murtha/flickr
Which tree do these come from?

The large deciduous hardwood tree, sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) also goes by the names redgum, sapgum, starleaf-gum and bilsted. Up to 50 seeds can be found within each spiky ball.

Question 2 of 15

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Elm seeds
Photo: Roger Culos/Wikimedia Commons
Which tree do these come from?

The flat, paper-like pods of the elm ensure that the seeds can be easily transported by the wind for dispersal.

Question 3 of 15

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Acorn
Photo: alias 0591/flickr
Which tree does this come from?

Too heavy to be dispersed by wind, the acorns of the oak tree are planted by squirrels and jays that cache them for food, but fail to recover up to 74 percent of them!

Question 4 of 15

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Aspen seeds
Photo: Matt Levine/Flickr
Which tree are these from?

Each of these aspen catkins can contain several dozen capsules, which each contain about 10 small seeds. The seeds are surrounded by tufts of long, white silky hairs that allow the seeds to travel for several miles on air currents.

Question 5 of 15

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Sequoia
Photo: Didier Descouens/Wikipedia
Which tree do these come from?

At any time, a gaint sequoia can have around 11,000 cones. A mature giant sequoia is thought to disperse 300,000-400,000 seeds per year; the winged seeds can travel nearly 600 feet from the parent tree.

Question 6 of 15

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Sycamore seed
Photo: Mr Green
Which tree does this come from?

The seed balls hang from the sycamore all winter. Then, in the spring, they drop and fall apart into tufted, fluffy seeds that are dispersed by air, water and animals.

Question 7 of 15

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Maple seed
Photo: AlessandroZocc/Shutterstock
Which tree do these come from?

The maple's fruit are called samaras, but they are known to many a kid as whirlybirds or helicopters. The seeds are perfectly formed to spin as they fall, slowing their descent and allowing air currents to carry them considerable distances. The maple samara is so effective in its duty that it has been a biomimetic inspiration for a number of military designs.

Question 8 of 15

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Willow seed
Photo: Anette Linnea Rasmussen/Shutterstock
Which tree do these come from?

While the seeds of many trees have a dormancy period before they can germinate, seeds from the weeping willow tree are able to germinate  within 12 to 24 hours if they fall into moist soil.

Question 9 of 15

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Eucalyptus
Photo: Sydney Oats/flickr
Which tree do these come from?

As the pods from eucalyptus trees turn from green to brown and woody, the seeds become viable for germination; when ready, the vents of the pod open to release the seeds.

Question 10 of 15

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Goldenrain
Photo: Art Davis/Wikimedia Commons
Which tree do these come from?

The goldenrain tree is popular for its showy yellow flowers and papery hanging seed pods that turn from orange to pink in the autumn, then finally russet brown; each pod contains several seeds. 

Question 11 of 15

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Magnolia seeds
Photo: Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons
Which tree does this come from?

Although Magnolia grandiflora begins producing seeds once it has reached 10 years old, peak production doesn't occur until the tree is around 25 years old. Nearly 50 percent of a tree's seeds can germinate; they are dispersed by birds and mammals, including squirrels, opossums, quail and turkey. 

Question 12 of 15

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Honey locust
Photo: D.E. Herman/USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Which tree do these come from?

Unlike that of the black locust, which is toxic, the pulp inside honey locust seed pods is edible. Grazing herbivores eat the pod pulp and excrete the seeds with their manure. The animal's digestive system helps to break down the coating and the manure acts as fertilizer once they're deposited.

Question 13 of 15

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Paulownia
Photo: philmarin/Wikimedia Commons
Which tree do these come from?

The beautiful pale violet flowers that are the princess tree's claim to fame mature into brown woody pods that harbor hundreds of tiny tufted seeds. Legend has it that princess trees are so rampant in much of the Untied States because the seeds and their fluff were used as packaging material for goods imported from China, escaping from their crates as they were transported on the rails.

Question 14 of 15

Score: 0

Larch
Photo: Tim & Selena Middleton/Wikimedia Commons
Which tree do these come from?

The cones of Larix laricina (commonly known as tamarack, hackmatack, eastern larch, black larch, red larch or American larch) shown here are the smallest of any larch at roughly one-half to 1 inch long and contain 12-25 seed scales each.

Question 15 of 15

Score: 0

Catalpa
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Which tree do these come from?

Popular as an ornamental tree for their showy white flowers and the shade they provide, the catalpa's seed pods add drama as well. Green when immature, they range from 8 to 20 inches long. The pods turn brown in the fall and split open in winter to reveal tufted seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

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Seed pod quiz
Photo: mark higgins/Shutterstock
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