Pollination is the transfer of pollen grains from the male structure of a plant to the female structure of a plant.
A pollen grain contains a sperm cell that fertilizes an egg. If fertilization is successful, a seed is produced. The pollen grains of each species display unique sculpting of the pollen wall, and fossilized pollen serves to identify ancient species. The pollen grains shown here are about 1000 times their actual size.
Types of Pollination:
Pollination can be of two types:
In self-pollination, pollen is transferred from the stamens to the pistil within one flower. The resulting seeds and the plants they produce inherit the genetic information of only one parent and the new plants are genetically identical to the parent. The advantage of self-pollination is the assurance of seed production when no pollinators, such as bees or birds, are present. It also sets the stage for rapid propagation—weeds typically self-pollinate, and they can produce an entire population from a single plant. The primary disadvantage of self-pollination is that it results in genetic uniformity of the population, which makes the population vulnerable to extinction by, for example, a single devastating disease to which all the genetically identical plants are equally susceptible. Another disadvantage is that beneficial genes do not spread as rapidly as in cross-pollination, because one plant with a beneficial gene can transmit it only to its own offspring and not to other plants. Self-pollination evolved later than cross-pollination and may have developed as a survival mechanism in harsh environments where pollinators were scarce.
Flower Pollination and Fertilization
Flowers contain the structures necessary for sexual reproduction. The male component, or stamen, consists of a thin stalk called the filament, capped by the anther. The female component, the pistil, includes the stigma, a sticky surface that catches pollen; the ovary, which contains the ovule and embryo sac with its egg; and the style, a tube that connects the stigma and ovary (A). Pollen is produced in the anther (B) and is released when mature (C). Each mature pollen grain contains two sperm cells. In self-pollinating plants, the pollen lands on the stigma of the same flower, but in cross-pollinating plants—the majority of plants—the pollen is carried by wind, water, insects, or small animals to another flower. If the pollen attaches to the stigma of a flower from the same species, the pollen produces a pollen tube, which grows down the neck of the style, transporting the sperm to the ovule (D). Within the embryo sac of the ovule, one sperm cell fertilizes the egg, which develops into a seed. The second sperm cell unites with two cells in the embryo sac called polar nuclei, and these results in the development of the endosperm, the starchy food that feeds the developing seed. The ovary enlarges (E) and becomes a fruit.
Most plants are designed for cross-pollination, in which pollen is transferred between different plants of the same species. Cross-pollination ensures that beneficial genes are transmitted relatively rapidly to succeeding generations. If a beneficial gene occurs in just one plant, that plant’s pollen or eggs can produce seeds that develop into numerous offspring carrying the beneficial gene. The offspring, through cross-pollination, transmit the gene to even more plants in the next generation. Cross-pollination introduces genetic diversity into the population at a rate that enables the species to cope with a changing environment. New genes ensure that at least some individuals can endure new diseases, climate changes, or new predators, enabling the species as a whole to survive and reproduce.
Plant species that use cross-pollination have special features that enhance this method. For instance, some plants have pollen grains that are lightweight and dry so that they are easily swept up by the wind and carried for long distances to other plants. Other plants have pollen and eggs that mature at different times, preventing the possibility of self-pollination.
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NJMH is working as Deputy Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu (techurdu.net) Forestrypedia (forestrypedia.com), Majestic Pakistan (majesticpakistan.pk), All Pak Notifications (allpaknotifications.com), Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.