What is Pollen?

Why is it important for the process of pollination?

Remember in the beginning of the Quest when Nina found no apples on the tree?  Let's look more closely at those apple blossoms to better understand the process of pollination.


Parts of a Plant

Like all living things, plants are designed to create offspring. One way plants reproduce is by making seeds, which carry the genetic information of the parent into the next generation. Many plants use flowers to make seeds. These types of plants are called angiosperms. They can only produce seeds when pollen has been transferred from the anther (male part of the flower) to the stigma (female part of the flower) of the same species.

Life Cycle of a Plant

In order for the flower to produce a seed, pollen must be transferred from flower to flower. This can happen within the same plant (self-pollination) or between different plants of the same species (cross-pollination). Pollen, a bunch of tiny, yellow, powdery grains, carry the male reproductive cells of the plant. When pollen is deposited onto the stigma (female part) of the plant, the pollen is on its way to fertilizing the female ovule of the plant. When a flower is fertilized, it grows into a fruit with seeds. Eventually, the fruit will be eaten by people or animals, or will fall to the ground and rot. Either way, the seeds will be moved to a new place and have a chance of growing into new plants. The cycle continues...


Pollinators to the Rescue!

If pollen needs to move either within a plant or between plants in order for that plant to reproduce, how does this happen? Wind and gravity will sometimes get the job done, but insect and animal pollinators play a huge role here. Enticed by the tasty nectar and pollen (only some pollinators actually eat pollen), these animals transfer pollen from plant to plant on their feet and bodies. As you learn more about these animals, you'll be fascinated at the traits and adaptations they have developed to do this job so well!

Why are pollinators so important?