Pollen is a fine to coarse powdery substance comprising pollen grains which are male microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat made of sporopollenin that protects the gametophytes during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants, or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. If pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone, it germinates, producing a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule containing the female gametophyte. Individual pollen grains are small enough to require magnification to see detail. The study of pollen is called palynology and is highly useful in paleoecology, paleontology, archaeology, and forensics. Pollen in plants is used for transferring haploid male genetic material from the anther of a single flower to the stigma of another in cross-pollination.[1] In a case of self-pollination, this process takes place from the anther of a flower to the stigma of the same flower.[1]

Pollen is commonly used as food and food supplement. However, because of agricultural practices, it is often contaminated by agricultural pesticides.[2]

Tulip Stamen Tip
Tulip anther with many grains of pollen
Cactus flower pollen
Closeup image of a cactus flower and its stamens
Misc pollen colorized
Scanning electron microscope image (500x magnification) of pollen grains from a variety of common plants: sunflower (Helianthus annuus), morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), prairie hollyhock (Sidalcea malviflora), oriental lily (Lilium auratum), evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa), and castor bean (Ricinus communis).

Structure and formation

Oenothera speciosa pollen 200x
Triporate pollen of Oenothera speciosa
Lilium auratum - pollen
Pollen of Lilium auratum showing single sulcus (monosulcate)
Arabis voch1-4
Arabis pollen has three colpi and prominent surface structure.
Coenocytic Tetrad
Pollens/Microspores of Lycopersicon esculentum at coenocytic tetrad stage of development observed through oil immersion microscope; the chromosomes of what will become four pollen grains can be seen.
Жизнеспособность пыльцы 13
Apple pollen under microscopy

Pollen itself is not the male gamete.[3] Each pollen grain contains vegetative (non-reproductive) cells (only a single cell in most flowering plants but several in other seed plants) and a generative (reproductive) cell. In flowering plants the vegetative tube cell produces the pollen tube, and the generative cell divides to form the two sperm cells.


Pollen is produced in the microsporangia in the male cone of a conifer or other gymnosperm or in the anthers of an angiosperm flower. Pollen grains come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and surface markings characteristic of the species (see electron micrograph, right). Pollen grains of pines, firs, and spruces are winged. The smallest pollen grain, that of the forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.), is around 6 µm (0.006 mm) in diameter. Wind-borne pollen grains can be as large as about 90–100 µm.[4]

In angiosperms, during flower development the anther is composed of a mass of cells that appear undifferentiated, except for a partially differentiated dermis. As the flower develops, four groups of sporogenous cells form within the anther. The fertile sporogenous cells are surrounded by layers of sterile cells that grow into the wall of the pollen sac. Some of the cells grow into nutritive cells that supply nutrition for the microspores that form by meiotic division from the sporogenous cells.

In a process called microsporogenesis, four haploid microspores are produced from each diploid sporogenous cell (microsporocyte, pollen mother cell or meiocyte), after meiotic division. After the formation of the four microspores, which are contained by callose walls, the development of the pollen grain walls begins. The callose wall is broken down by an enzyme called callase and the freed pollen grains grow in size and develop their characteristic shape and form a resistant outer wall called the exine and an inner wall called the intine. The exine is what is preserved in the fossil record. Two basic types of microsporogenesis are recognised, simultaneous and successive. In simultaneous microsporogenesis meiotic steps I and II are completed prior to cytokinesis, whereas in successive microsporogenesis cytokinesis follows. While there may be a continuum with intermediate forms, the type of microsporogenesis has systematic significance. The predominant form amongst the monocots is successive, but there are important exceptions.[5]

During microgametogenesis, the unicellular microspores undergo mitosis and develop into mature microgametophytes containing the gametes.[6] In some flowering plants, germination of the pollen grain may begin even before it leaves the microsporangium, with the generative cell forming the two sperm cells.


Except in the case of some submerged aquatic plants, the mature pollen grain has a double wall. The vegetative and generative cells are surrounded by a thin delicate wall of unaltered cellulose called the endospore or intine, and a tough resistant outer cuticularized wall composed largely of sporopollenin called the exospore or exine. The exine often bears spines or warts, or is variously sculptured, and the character of the markings is often of value for identifying genus, species, or even cultivar or individual. The spines may be less than a micron in length (spinulus, plural spinuli) referred to as spinulose (scabrate), or longer than a micron (echina, echinae) referred to as echinate. Various terms also describe the sculpturing such as reticulate, a net like appearance consisting of elements (murus, muri) separated from each other by a lumen (plural lumina). These reticulations may also be referred to as brochi.

The pollen wall protects the sperm while the pollen grain is moving from the anther to the stigma; it protects the The vital genetic material from drying out and solar radiation. The pollen grain surface is covered with waxes and proteins, which are held in place by structures called sculpture elements on the surface of the grain. The outer pollen wall, which prevents the pollen grain from shrinking and crushing the genetic material during desiccation, is composed of two layers. These two layers are the tectum and the foot layer, which is just above the intine. The tectum and foot layer are separated by a region called the columella, which is composed of strengthening rods. The outer wall is constructed with a resistant biopolymer called sporopollenin.

Pollen apertures are regions of the pollen wall that may involve exine thinning or a significant reduction in exine thickness.[7] They allow shrinking and swelling of the grain caused by changes in moisture content. Elongated apertures or furrows in the pollen grain are called colpi (singular: colpus) or sulci (singular: sulcus). Apertures that are more circular are called pores. Colpi, sulci and pores are major features in the identification of classes of pollen.[8] Pollen may be referred to as inaperturate (apertures absent) or aperturate (apertures present). The aperture may have a lid (operculum), hence is described as operculate.[9] However the term inaperturate covers a wide range of morphological types, such as functionally inaperturate (cryptoaperturate) and omniaperturate.[5] Inaperaturate pollen grains often have thin walls, which facilitates pollen tube germination at any position.[7] Terms such as uniaperturate and triaperturate refer to the number of apertures present (one and three respectively).

The orientation of furrows (relative to the original tetrad of microspores) classifies the pollen as sulcate or colpate. Sulcate pollen has a furrow across the middle of what was the outer face when the pollen grain was in its tetrad.[10] If the pollen has only a single sulcus, it is described as monosulcate, has two sulci, as bisulcate, or more, as polysulcate.[11][12] Colpate pollen has furrows other than across the middle of the outer faces.[10] Eudicots have pollen with three colpi (tricolpate) or with shapes that are evolutionarily derived from tricolpate pollen.[13] The evolutionary trend in plants has been from monosulcate to polycolpate or polyporate pollen.[10]

Additionally, gymnosperm pollen grains often have air bladders, or vesicles, called sacci. The sacci are not actually balloons, but are sponge-like, and increase the buoyancy of the pollen grain and help keep it aloft in the wind, as most gymnosperms are anemophilous. Pollen can be monosaccate, (containing one saccus) or bisaccate (containing two sacci). Modern pine, spruce, and yellowwood trees all produce saccate pollen.[14]


Apis mellifera flying
European honey bee carrying pollen in a pollen basket back to the hive
Episyrphus balteatus - head close-up (aka)
Marmalade hoverfly, pollen on its face and legs, sitting on a rockrose.
Diadasia Bee Straddles Cactus Flower Carpels close-up
Diadasia bee straddles flower carpels while visiting yellow Opuntia engelmannii cactus

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.[15] However, the vegetative cell that is responsible for tube elongation appears to lack this DNA repair capability.[15]

In the fossil record

Pollen's sporopollenin outer sheath affords it some resistance to the rigours of the fossilisation process that destroy weaker objects; it is also produced in huge quantities. There is an extensive fossil record of pollen grains, often disassociated from their parent plant. The discipline of palynology is devoted to the study of pollen, which can be used both for biostratigraphy and to gain information about the abundance and variety of plants alive — which can itself yield important information about paleoclimates. Also, pollen analysis has been widely used for reconstructing past changes in vegetation and their associated drivers.[16] Pollen is first found in the fossil record in the late Devonian period,[17][18] but at that time it is indistinguishable from spores.[17] It increases in abundance until the present day.

Allergy to pollen

Nasal allergy to pollen is called pollinosis, and allergy specifically to grass pollen is called hay fever. Generally, pollens that cause allergies are those of anemophilous plants (pollen is dispersed by air currents.) Such plants produce large quantities of lightweight pollen (because wind dispersal is random and the likelihood of one pollen grain landing on another flower is small), which can be carried for great distances and are easily inhaled, bringing it into contact with the sensitive nasal passages.

Pollen allergies are common in polar and temperate climate zones, where production of pollen is seasonal. In the tropics pollen production varies less by the season, and allergic reactions less. In northern Europe, common pollens for allergies are those of birch and alder, and in late summer wormwood and different forms of hay. Grass pollen is also associated with asthma exacerbations in some people, a phenomenon termed thunderstorm asthma.[19]

In the US, people often mistakenly blame the conspicuous goldenrod flower for allergies. Since this plant is entomophilous (its pollen is dispersed by animals), its heavy, sticky pollen does not become independently airborne. Most late summer and fall pollen allergies are probably caused by ragweed, a widespread anemophilous plant.[20]

Arizona was once regarded as a haven for people with pollen allergies, although several ragweed species grow in the desert. However, as suburbs grew and people began establishing irrigated lawns and gardens, more irritating species of ragweed gained a foothold and Arizona lost its claim of freedom from hay fever.

Anemophilous spring blooming plants such as oak, birch, hickory, pecan, and early summer grasses may also induce pollen allergies. Most cultivated plants with showy flowers are entomophilous and do not cause pollen allergies.

The number of people in the United States affected by hay fever is between 20 and 40 million,[21] and such allergy has proven to be the most frequent allergic response in the nation. There are certain evidential suggestions pointing out hay fever and similar allergies to be of hereditary origin. Individuals who suffer from eczema or are asthmatic tend to be more susceptible to developing long-term hay fever.[22]

In Denmark, decades of rising temperatures cause pollen to appear earlier and in greater numbers, as well as introduction of new species such as ragweed.[23]

The most efficient way to handle a pollen allergy is by preventing contact with the material. Individuals carrying the ailment may at first believe that they have a simple summer cold, but hay fever becomes more evident when the apparent cold does not disappear. The confirmation of hay fever can be obtained after examination by a general physician.[24]


Antihistamines are effective at treating mild cases of pollinosis, this type of non-prescribed drugs includes loratadine, cetirizine and chlorpheniramine. They do not prevent the discharge of histamine, but it has been proven that they do prevent a part of the chain reaction activated by this biogenic amine, which considerably lowers hay fever symptoms.

Decongestants can be administered in different ways such as tablets and nasal sprays.

Allergy immunotherapy (AIT) treatment involves administering doses of allergens to accustom the body to pollen, thereby inducing specific long-term tolerance.[25] Allergy immunotherapy can be administered orally (as sublingual tablets or sublingual drops), or by injections under the skin (subcutaneous). Discovered by Leonard Noon and John Freeman in 1911, allergy immunotherapy represents the only causative treatment for respiratory allergies.


Most major classes of predatory and parasitic arthropods contain species that eat pollen, despite the common perception that bees are the primary pollen-consuming arthropod group. Many other Hymenoptera other than bees consume pollen as adults, though only a small number feed on pollen as larvae (including some ant larvae). Spiders are normally considered carnivores but pollen is an important source of food for several species, particularly for spiderlings, which catch pollen on their webs. It is not clear how spiderlings manage to eat pollen however, since their mouths are not large enough to consume pollen grains. Some predatory mites also feed on pollen, with some species being able to subsist solely on pollen, such as Euseius tularensis, which feeds on the pollen of dozens of plant species. Members of some beetle families such as Mordellidae and Melyridae feed almost exclusively on pollen as adults, while various lineages within larger families such as Curculionidae, Chrysomelidae, Cerambycidae, and Scarabaeidae are pollen specialists even though most members of their families are not (e.g., only 36 of 40,000 species of ground beetles, which are typically predatory, have been shown to eat pollen—but this is thought to be a severe underestimate as the feeding habits are only known for 1,000 species). Similarly, Ladybird beetles mainly eat insects, but many species also eat pollen, as either part or all of their diet. Hemiptera are mostly herbivores or omnivores but pollen feeding is known (and has only been well studied in the Anthocoridae). Many adult flies, especially Syrphidae, feed on pollen, and three UK syrphid species feed strictly on pollen (syrphids, like all flies, cannot eat pollen directly due to the structure of their mouthparts, but can consume pollen contents that are dissolved in a fluid).[26] Some species of fungus, including Fomes fomentarius, are able to break down grains of pollen as a secondary nutrition source that is particularly high in nitrogen.[27] Pollen may be valuable diet supplement for detritivores, providing them with nutrients needed for growth, development and maturation.[28] It was suggested that obtaining nutrients from pollen, deposited on the forest floor during periods of pollen rains, allows fungi to decompose nutritionally scarce litter.[28]

Some species of Heliconius butterflies consume pollen as adults, which appears to be a valuable nutrient source, and these species are more distasteful to predators than the non-pollen consuming species.[29][30]

Although bats, butterflies and hummingbirds are not pollen eaters per se, their consumption of nectar in flowers is an important aspect of the pollination process.

In humans

Bee pollen for human consumption is marketed as a food ingredient and as a dietary supplement. The largest constituent is carbohydrates, with protein content ranging from 7 to 35 percent depending on the plant species collected by bees.[31]

Honey produced by bees from natural sources contains pollen derived p-coumaric acid,[32] an antioxidant and natural bactericide that is also present in a wide variety of plants and plant-derived food products.[33]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not found any harmful effects of bee pollen consumption, except from the usual allergies. However, FDA does not allow bee pollen marketers in the United States to make health claims about their produce, as no scientific basis for these has ever been proven. Furthermore, there are possible dangers not only from allergic reactions but also from contaminants such as pesticides[2] and from fungi and bacteria growth related to poor storage procedures. A manufacturers's claim that pollen collecting helps the bee colonies is also controversial.[34]

Pine pollen (송화가루; Songhwa Garu) is traditionally consumed in Korea as an ingredient in sweets and beverages.


The growing industries in pollen harvesting for human and bee consumption rely on harvesting pollen baskets from honey bees as they return to their hives using a pollen trap.[35] When this pollen has been tested for parasites, it has been found that a multitude of pollinator viruses and eukaryotic parasites are present in the pollen.[36][37] It is currently unclear if the parasites are introduced by the bee that collected the pollen or if it is from contamination to the flower.[37][38] Though this is not likely to pose a risk to humans, it is a major issue for the bumblebee rearing industry that relies on thousands of tonnes of honey bee collected pollen per year.[39] Several sterilization methods have been employed, though no method has been 100% effective at sterilizing, without reducing the nutritional value, of the pollen [40]

Forensic palynology

An SEM micrograph of Redbud pollen. Scanning electron microscopes are major instruments in palynology.

In forensic biology, pollen can tell a lot about where a person or object has been, because regions of the world, or even more particular locations such a certain set of bushes, will have a distinctive collection of pollen species.[41] Pollen evidence can also reveal the season in which a particular object picked up the pollen.[42] Pollen has been used to trace activity at mass graves in Bosnia,[43] catch a burglar who brushed against a Hypericum bush during a crime,[44] and has even been proposed as an additive for bullets to enable tracking them.[45]

Spiritual purposes

In some Native American religions, pollen was used in prayers and rituals to symbolize life and renewal by sanctifying objects, dancing grounds, trails, and sandpaintings. It may also be sprinkled over heads or in mouths. Many Navajo people believed the body became holy when it traveled over a trail sprinkled with pollen.[46]

Pollen Grain Staining

For agricultural research purposes, assessing the viability of pollen grains can be necessary and illuminating. A very common, efficient method to do so is know as Alexander's stain[47]. This differential stain consists of ethanol, malachite green, distilled water, glycerol, phenol, chloral hydrate, acid fuchsin, orange g, and glacial acetic acid[48]. In angiosperms and gymnosperms non-aborted pollen grain will appear red or pink, and aborted pollen grains will appear blue or slightly green.

See also


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Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a type of inflammation in the nose which occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. Signs and symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, itchy, and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes. The fluid from the nose is usually clear. Symptom onset is often within minutes following exposure and they can affect sleep, the ability to work, and the ability to concentrate at school. Those whose symptoms are due to pollen typically develop symptoms during specific times of the year. Many people with allergic rhinitis also have asthma, allergic conjunctivitis, or atopic dermatitis.Allergic rhinitis is typically triggered by environmental allergens such as pollen, pet hair, dust, or mold. Inherited genetics and environmental exposures contribute to the development of allergies. Growing up on a farm and having multiple siblings decreases the risk. The underlying mechanism involves IgE antibodies attaching to the allergen and causing the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine from mast cells. Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history in combination with a skin prick test or blood tests for allergen-specific IgE antibodies. These tests, however, are sometimes falsely positive. The symptoms of allergies resemble those of the common cold; however, they often last for more than two weeks and typically do not include a fever.Exposure to animals in early life might reduce the risk of developing allergies to them later. A number of medications may improve symptoms including nasal steroids, antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, cromolyn sodium, and leukotriene receptor antagonists such as montelukast. Medications are, however, not sufficient or are associated with side effects in many people. Exposing people to larger and larger amounts of allergen, known as allergen immunotherapy, is often effective. The allergen may be given as injections just under the skin or as a tablet under the tongue. Treatment typically lasts three to five years after which benefits may be prolonged.Allergic rhinitis is the type of allergy that affects the greatest number of people. In Western countries, between 10–30% of people are affected in a given year. It is most common between the ages of twenty and forty. The first accurate description is from the 10th century physician Rhazes. Pollen was identified as the cause in 1859 by Charles Blackley. In 1906, the mechanism was determined by Clemens von Pirquet. The link with hay came about due to an early (and incorrect) theory that the symptoms were brought about by the smell of new hay.


Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea and are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. There are over 16,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.

Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially. The decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.

Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.

Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, through all phases of art and literature, from ancient times to the present day, though primarily focused in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common.

The analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across Britain from 1980 to 2013 found the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they inhabited in 1980.


A bumblebee (or bumble bee, bumble-bee, or humble-bee) is any of over 250 species in the genus Bombus, part of Apidae, one of the bee families. This genus is the only extant group in the tribe Bombini, though a few extinct related genera (e.g., Calyptapis) are known from fossils. They are found primarily in higher altitudes or latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, although they are also found in South America where a few lowland tropical species have been identified. European bumblebees have also been introduced to New Zealand and Tasmania. Female bumblebees can sting repeatedly, but generally ignore humans and other animals.

Most bumblebees are social insects that form colonies with a single queen. The colonies are smaller than those of honey bees, growing to as few as 50 individuals in a nest. Cuckoo bumblebees are brood parasitic and do not make nests; their queens aggressively invade the nests of other bumblebee species, kill the resident queens and then lay their own eggs, which are cared for by the resident workers. Cuckoo bumblebees were previously classified as a separate genus, but are now usually treated as members of Bombus.

Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair (long branched setae) called pile, making them appear and feel fuzzy. They have aposematic (warning) coloration, often consisting of contrasting bands of colour, and different species of bumblebee in a region often resemble each other in mutually protective Müllerian mimicry. Harmless insects such as hoverflies often derive protection from resembling bumblebees, in Batesian mimicry, and may be confused with them. Nest-making bumblebees can be distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy cuckoo bees by the form of the female hind leg. In nesting bumblebees, it is modified to form a pollen basket, a bare shiny area surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen, whereas in cuckoo bees, the hind leg is hairy all round, and pollen grains are wedged among the hairs for transport.

Like their relatives the honeybees, bumblebees feed on nectar, using their long hairy tongues to lap up the liquid; the proboscis is folded under the head during flight. Bumblebees gather nectar to add to the stores in the nest, and pollen to feed their young. They forage using colour and spatial relationships to identify flowers to feed from. Some bumblebees steal nectar, making a hole near the base of a flower to access the nectar while avoiding pollen transfer. Bumblebees are important agricultural pollinators, so their decline in Europe, North America, and Asia is a cause for concern. The decline has been caused by habitat loss, the mechanisation of agriculture, and pesticides.

Conifer cone

A cone (in formal botanical usage: strobilus, plural strobili) is an organ on plants in the division Pinophyta (conifers) that contains the reproductive structures. The familiar woody cone is the female cone, which produces seeds. The male cones, which produce pollen, are usually herbaceous and much less conspicuous even at full maturity. The name "cone" derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.

The male cone (microstrobilus or pollen cone) is structurally similar across all conifers, differing only in small ways (mostly in scale arrangement) from species to species. Extending out from a central axis are microsporophylls (modified leaves). Under each microsporophyll is one or several microsporangia (pollen sacs).

The female cone (megastrobilus, seed cone, or ovulate cone) contains ovules which, when fertilized by pollen, become seeds. The female cone structure varies more markedly between the different conifer families, and is often crucial for the identification of many species of conifers.


The dicotyledons, also known as dicots (or more rarely dicotyls), are one of the two groups into which all the flowering plants or angiosperms were formerly divided. The name refers to one of the typical characteristics of the group, namely that the seed has two embryonic leaves or cotyledons. There are around 200,000 species within this group. The other group of flowering plants were called monocotyledons or monocots, typically having one cotyledon. Historically, these two groups formed the two divisions of the flowering plants.

Largely from the 1990s onwards, molecular phylogenetic research confirmed what had already been suspected, namely that dicotyledons are not a group made up of all the descendants of a common ancestor (i.e. they are not a monophyletic group). Rather, a number of lineages, such as the magnoliids and groups now collectively known as the basal angiosperms, diverged earlier than the monocots did, in other words monocots evolved from within the dicots as traditionally defined. The traditional dicots are thus a paraphyletic group. The eudicots are the largest clade within the dicotyledons. They are distinguished from all other flowering plants by the structure of their pollen. Other dicotyledons and monocotyledons have monosulcate pollen, or forms derived from it, whereas eudicots have tricolpate pollen, or derived forms, the pollen having three or more pores set in furrows called colpi.


The eudicots, Eudicotidae or eudicotyledons are a clade of flowering plants that had been called tricolpates or non-magnoliid dicots by previous authors. The botanical terms were introduced in 1991 by evolutionary botanist James A. Doyle and paleobotanist Carol L. Hotton to emphasize the later evolutionary divergence of tricolpate dicots from earlier, less specialized, dicots. The close relationships among flowering plants with tricolpate pollen grains was initially seen in morphological studies of shared derived characters. These plants have a distinct trait in their pollen grains of exhibiting three colpi or grooves paralleling the polar axis. Later molecular evidence confirmed the genetic basis for the evolutionary relationships among flowering plants with tricolpate pollen grains and dicotyledonous traits. The term means "true dicotyledons", as it contains the majority of plants that have been considered dicots and have characteristics of the dicots. The term "eudicots" has subsequently been widely adopted in botany to refer to one of the two largest clades of angiosperms (constituting over 70% of the angiosperm species), monocots being the other. The remaining angiosperms include magnoliids and what are sometimes referred to as basal angiosperms or paleodicots, but these terms have not been widely or consistently adopted, as they do not refer to a monophyletic group.

The other name for the eudicots is tricolpates, a name which refers to the grooved structure of the pollen. Members of the group have tricolpate pollen, or forms derived from it. These pollens have three or more pores set in furrows called colpi. In contrast, most of the other seed plants (that is the gymnosperms, the monocots and the paleodicots) produce monosulcate pollen, with a single pore set in a differently oriented groove called the sulcus. The name "tricolpates" is preferred by some botanists to avoid confusion with the dicots, a nonmonophyletic group.Numerous familiar plants are eudicots, including many common food plants, trees, and ornamentals. Some common and familiar eudicots include members of the sunflower family such as the common dandelion, the forget-me-not, cabbage and other members of its family, apple, buttercup, maple, and macadamia. Most leafy trees of midlatitudes also belong to eudicots, with notable exceptions being magnolias and tulip trees which belong to magnoliids, and Ginkgo biloba, which is not an angiosperm.

The name "eudicots" (plural) is used in the APG system, of 1998, and APG II system, of 2003, for classification of angiosperms. It is applied to a clade, a monophyletic group, which includes most of the (former) dicots.

"Tricolpate" is a synonym for the "Eudicot" monophyletic group, the "true dicotyledons" (which are distinguished from all other flowering plants by their tricolpate pollen structure). The number of pollen grain furrows or pores helps classify the flowering plants, with eudicots having three colpi (tricolpate), and other groups having one sulcus.Pollen apertures are any modification of the wall of the pollen grain. These modifications include thinning, ridges and pores, they serve as an exit for the pollen contents and allow shrinking and swelling of the grain caused by changes in moisture content. The elongated apertures/ furrows in the pollen grain are called colpi (singular colpus), which, along with pores, are a chief criterion for identifying the pollen classes.


Fertilisation or fertilization (see spelling differences), also known as generative fertilisation, insemination, pollination, fecundation, syngamy and impregnation, is the fusion of gametes to initiate the development of a new individual organism or offspring. This cycle of fertilisation and development of new individuals is called sexual reproduction. During double fertilisation in angiosperms the haploid male gamete combines with two haploid polar nuclei to form a triploid primary endosperm nucleus by the process of vegetative fertilisation.


A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants (plants of the division Magnoliophyta, also called angiosperms). The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs. Flowers may facilitate outcrossing (fusion of sperm and eggs from different individuals in a population) or allow selfing (fusion of sperm and egg from the same flower). Some flowers produce diaspores without fertilization (parthenocarpy). Flowers contain sporangia and are the site where gametophytes develop. Many flowers have evolved to be attractive to animals, so as to cause them to be vectors for the transfer of pollen. After fertilization, the ovary of the flower develops into fruit containing seeds.

In addition to facilitating the reproduction of flowering plants, flowers have long been admired and used by humans to bring beauty to their environment, and also as objects of romance, ritual, religion, medicine and as a source of food.


Germination is the process by which an organism grows from a seed or similar structure. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed of an angiosperm or gymnosperm. In addition, the growth of a sporeling from a spore, such as the spores of hyphae from fungal spores, is also germination. Thus, in a general sense, germination can be thought of as anything expanding into greater being from a small existence or germ.


Megachilidae is a cosmopolitan family of mostly solitary bees whose pollen-carrying structure (called a scopa) is restricted to the ventral surface of the abdomen (rather than mostly or exclusively on the hind legs as in other bee families). Megachilid genera are most commonly known as mason bees and leafcutter bees, reflecting the materials from which they build their nest cells (soil or leaves, respectively); a few collect plant or animal hairs and fibers, and are called carder bees, while others use plant resins in nest construction and are correspondingly called resin bees. All species feed on nectar and pollen, but a few are kleptoparasites (informally called "cuckoo bees"), feeding on pollen collected by other megachilid bees. Parasitic species do not possess scopae. The motion of Megachilidae in the reproductive structures of flowers is energetic and swimming-like; this agitation releases large amounts of pollen.


Paleobotany, also spelled as palaeobotany, is the branch of botany dealing with the recovery and identification of plant remains from geological contexts, and their use for the biological reconstruction of past environments (paleogeography), and the evolutionary history of plants, with a bearing upon the evolution of life in general. A synonym is paleophytology. It is a component of paleontology and paleobiology. The prefix palaeo- means "ancient, old", and is derived from the Greek adjective παλαιός, palaios. Paleobotany includes the study of terrestrial plant fossils, as well as the study of prehistoric marine photoautotrophs, such as photosynthetic algae, seaweeds or kelp. A closely related field is palynology, which is the study of fossilized and extant spores and pollen.

Paleobotany is important in the reconstruction of ancient ecological systems and climate, known as paleoecology and paleoclimatology respectively; and is fundamental to the study of green plant development and evolution. Paleobotany has also become important to the field of archaeology, primarily for the use of phytoliths in relative dating and in paleoethnobotany.

The emergence of paleobotany as a scientific discipline can be seen in the early 19th century, especially in the works of the German palaeontologist Ernst Friedrich von Schlotheim, the Czech (Bohemian) nobleman and scholar Kaspar Maria von Sternberg, and the French botanist Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart.


Palynology is literally the "study of dust" (from Greek: παλύνω, translit. palunō, "strew, sprinkle" and -logy) or of "particles that are strewn". A classic palynologist analyses particulate samples collected from the air, from water, or from deposits including sediments of any age. The condition and identification of those particles, organic and inorganic, give the palynologist clues to the life, environment, and energetic conditions that produced them.

The term is commonly used to refer to a subset of the discipline, which is defined as "the study of microscopic objects of macromolecular organic composition (i.e., compounds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen), not capable of dissolution in hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acids".

It is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, orbicules, dinocysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter (POM) and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments. Palynology does not include diatoms, foraminiferans or other organisms with siliceous or calcareous exoskeletons.


The Pinophyta, also known as Coniferophyta or Coniferae, or commonly as conifers, are a division of vascular land plants containing a single extant class, Pinopsida. They are gymnosperms, cone-bearing seed plants. All extant conifers are perennial woody plants with secondary growth. The great majority are trees, though a few are shrubs. Examples include cedars, Douglas firs, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. As of 1998, the division Pinophyta was estimated to contain eight families, 68 genera, and 629 living species.Although the total number of species is relatively small, conifers are ecologically important. They are the dominant plants over large areas of land, most notably the taiga of the Northern Hemisphere, but also in similar cool climates in mountains further south. Boreal conifers have many wintertime adaptations. The narrow conical shape of northern conifers, and their downward-drooping limbs, help them shed snow. Many of them seasonally alter their biochemistry to make them more resistant to freezing. While tropical rainforests have more biodiversity and turnover, the immense conifer forests of the world represent the largest terrestrial carbon sink. Conifers are of great economic value for softwood lumber and paper production.


Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Pollination often occurs within a species. When pollination occurs between species it can produce hybrid offspring in nature and in plant breeding work.

In angiosperms, after the pollen grain has landed on the stigma, it develops a pollen tube which grows down the style until it reaches an ovary. Sperm cells from the pollen grain then move along the pollen tube, enter an ovum cell through the micropyle and fertilise it, resulting in the production of a seed.

A successful angiosperm pollen grain (gametophyte) containing the male gametes is transported to the stigma, where it germinates and its pollen tube grows down the style to the ovary. Its two gametes travel down the tube to where the gametophyte(s) containing the female gametes are held within the carpel. One nucleus fuses with the polar bodies to produce the endosperm tissues, and the other with the ovule to produce the embryo Hence the term: "double fertilization".

In gymnosperms, the ovule is not contained in a carpel, but exposed on the surface of a dedicated support organ, such as the scale of a cone, so that the penetration of carpel tissue is unnecessary. Details of the process vary according to the division of gymnosperms in question. Two main modes of fertilization are found in gymnosperms. Cycads and Ginkgo have motile sperm that swim directly to the egg inside the ovule, whereas conifers and gnetophytes have sperm that are unable to swim but are conveyed to the egg along a pollen tube.

The study of pollination brings together many disciplines, such as botany, horticulture, entomology, and ecology. The pollination process as an interaction between flower and pollen vector was first addressed in the 18th century by Christian Konrad Sprengel. It is important in horticulture and agriculture, because fruiting is dependent on fertilization: the result of pollination. The study of pollination by insects is known as anthecology.


A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains.

Insect pollinators include bees, (honey bees, solitary species, bumblebees); pollen wasps (Masarinae); ants; flies including bee flies, hoverflies and mosquitoes; lepidopterans, both butterflies and moths; and flower beetles. Vertebrates, mainly bats and birds, but also some non-bat mammals (monkeys, lemurs, possums, rodents) and some lizards pollinate certain plants. Among the pollinating birds are hummingbirds, honeyeaters and sunbirds with long beaks; they pollinate a number of deep-throated flowers. Humans may also carry out artificial pollination.

A pollinator is different from a pollenizer, a plant that is a source of pollen for the pollination process.


Organisms of many species are specialized into male and female varieties, each known as a sex. Sexual reproduction involves the combining and mixing of genetic traits: specialized cells known as gametes combine to form offspring that inherit traits from each parent. The gametes produced by an organism define its sex: males produce small gametes (e.g. spermatozoa, or sperm, in animals; pollen in seed plants) while females produce large gametes (ova, or egg cells). Individual organisms which produce both male and female gametes are termed hermaphroditic. Gametes can be identical in form and function (known as isogamy), but, in many cases, an asymmetry has evolved such that two different types of gametes (heterogametes) exist (known as anisogamy).

Physical differences are often associated with the different sexes of an organism; these sexual dimorphisms can reflect the different reproductive pressures the sexes experience. For instance, mate choice and sexual selection can accelerate the evolution of physical differences between the sexes.

Among humans and other mammals, males typically carry an X and a Y chromosome (XY), whereas females typically carry two X chromosomes (XX), which are a part of the XY sex-determination system. Humans may also be intersex. Other animals have different sex-determination systems, such as the ZW system in birds, the X0 system in insects, and various environmental systems, for example in crustaceans. Fungi may also have more complex allelic mating systems, with sexes not accurately described as male, female, or hermaphroditic.

Sex organ

A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal's body that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. The testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, are called the primary sex organs. The external sex organs – the genitals or genitalia, visible at birth in both sexes, and the internal sex organs are called the secondary sex organs.Mosses, ferns, and some similar plants have gametangia for reproductive organs, which are part of the gametophyte. The flowers of flowering plants produce pollen and egg cells, but the sex organs themselves are inside the gametophytes within the pollen and the ovule. Coniferous plants likewise produce their sexually reproductive structures within the gametophytes contained within the cones and pollen. The cones and pollen are not themselves sexual organs.


The stamen (plural stamina or stamens) is the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower. Collectively the stamens form the androecium.

Stigma (botany)

The stigma (plural: stigmas or stigmata) is the receptive tip of a carpel, or of several fused carpels, in the gynoecium of a flower.

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