Flowering plants make the outdoor environment a beautiful place. They also help produce some of the food that people eat, like fruits and seeds. These plants don’t just pop up out of the ground without any help. Plants grow with the help of nature, pollen and a process called pollination. Pollen is very tiny, fine grain, or granules that are produced in flowers. These granules are what helps plants to grow. Before they can do that, something called pollination must happen. Learning about pollination will help kids and adults understand and enjoy how nature works.
What is Pollination?
Pollination starts with two parts of the flower, called an anther and a stigma. An anther is a part of the plant’s male reproductive part, and it is covered in pollen. The stigma is a part of the plant’s female reproductive part. When pollen from the anther of a flower is carried to another flower’s stigma, it is called pollination. This allows the plants to reproduce by creating seeds. Pollination occurs when pollen is carried to a flower on another plant or, sometimes even a flower on the same plant.
Types of Pollination
When pollination happens, it does not always happen the same way for all plants. There are two types of pollination. One type of pollination relies on living things, or pollinators, to move the pollen. When pollination relies on a living organism, it is called biotic pollination. The second type of pollination does not rely on living organisms. This is called abiotic pollination.
Just like there are different types of pollination, there are different types of pollinators. Most often, when people think about living or biotic pollinators they think of insects, like bees. When bees land on a flower in search of nectar and pollen, the pollen sticks to their body. When they move to another flower, the pollen rubs off of their bodies onto that plant’s stigma, resulting in pollination. Butterflies are also common pollinators and are often seen on brightly colored flowers during the spring months. Insects are not the only living pollinators. Animals like birds and even nectar eating bats are pollinators of some plants.
Several things about the flower can decide its pollinator. The scent and color of a flower may attract some pollinators, but not others. Humming birds, for example, really like the color red and will be attracted to flowers that are that color. The shape of certain flowers can make it easy for some pollinators to reach the nectar that they are searching for. Shape can also make it difficult for others. Even the time of the day that a flower opens will attract a certain type of pollinator.
Abiotic, or non-living, pollinators include the wind and water. When a plant is aquatic, or lives in water, the water will be the pollinator. For other plants, the wind moves the pollen. When air is the pollinator, the plant will often produce a lot of pollen to ensure pollination. It is this excess pollen in the air that can cause spring allergies in some people. Corn, certain type of trees and grass are pollinated by the wind.
Anatomy of Flowers
The anther and the stigma are two important parts of a flower’s reproduction process, but they are not the only parts. For example, the anther is only a section of the flower’s male reproductive part. The entire part is called a stamen. The stamen consists of a very thin stalk called a filament. The filament holds the anther. The anther is what produces pollen and holds onto it until it is removed by the pollinator. A flower typically has the same number of stamen as it does petals.
The pollen is put onto the stigma, which is a part of the flowers pistil. The entire female part of the flower is called the pistil. The stigma is the top and the most visible part of the pistil. It is sticky, which makes it easy for the pollen to stick. The stigma sits on top of the style. The style of the flower is a stalk that connects the stigma to the ovary of the flower. Inside of the ovary is the ovule, which becomes the seeds. In addition to the reproductive parts of the flower, there is also the sepal and the petals. Before the flower opens it is called a bud. This bud is protected by the sepal. When the flower opens, the sepal protects the bottom of the flower and looks like green leaves. Of course, the petals are the most attractive part of the flower and is the reason why people pick flowers in the first place. Petals are the colored portion of the flower and can be in different shapes and sizes. Often the petals play a part in attracting the right pollinators.
- Flower Anatomy: The Parts of a Flower by ProFlowers
- What is Pollination?
- BBC Garden Basics – Did You Know? Flowers: Pollination
- Pollination Fast Facts
- Parts of Flower
- The Great Plant Escape: Plant Parts – Flowers
- Flower Adaptations for Pollination
- U.S. Forest Services – Plant Pollination Strategies
- Missouri Botanical Garden – Pollination
- Bees: The World’s Star Pollinators
- About Pollinators
- Discover Your Wild Side:The Science of Pollination Primer
- The Reproduction of Flowering Plants