This week’s beekeeping vocabulary word is “Pollen.”
Pollen is collected by honey bees and other pollinators and used as a food source. In the process of these pollinators travels they transfer pollen from one flow to another thus satisfying the reproductive needs of plants. The result is the production of a fruit, nut, seed by the flower of the pollinated plant. It’s a symbiotic relationship whereby the bee gathers a source of food containing proteins, lipids, and vitamins and the plant gets successfully pollinated.
The transfer of pollen grains to the female reproductive structure (pistil in angiosperms) is called pollination. This transfer can be mediated by the wind, in which case the plant is described as anemophilous (literally wind-loving). Anemophilous plants typically produce great quantities of very lightweight pollen grains, sometimes with air-sacs. Non-flowering seed plants (e.g. pine trees) are characteristically anemophilous. Anemophilous flowering plants generally have inconspicuous flowers. Entomophilous (literally insect-loving) plants produce pollen that is relatively heavy, sticky and protein-rich, for dispersal by insect pollinators attracted to their flowers. Many insects and some mites are specialized to feed on pollen, and are called palynivores.
In non-flowering seed plants, pollen germinates in the pollen chamber, located beneath the micropyle, underneath the integuments of the ovule. A pollen tube is produced, which grows into the nucellus to provide nutrients for the developing sperm cells. Sperm cells of Pinophyta and Gnetophyta are without flagella, and are carried by the pollen tube, while those of Cycadophyta and Ginkgophyta have many flagella.
When placed on the stigma of a flowering plant, under favorable circumstances, a pollen grain puts forth a pollen tube, which grows down the tissue of the style to the ovary, and makes its way along the placenta, guided by projections or hairs, to the micropyle of an ovule. The nucleus of the tube cell has meanwhile passed into the tube, as does also the generative nucleus, which divides (if it hasn’t already) to form two sperm cells. The sperm cells are carried to their destination in the tip of the pollen tube. Double-strand breaks in DNA that arise during pollen tube growth appear to be efficiently repaired in the generative cell that carries the male genomic information to be passed on to the next plant generation. However, the vegetative cell that is responsible for tube elongation appears to lack this DNA repair capability.