Carpenter bee with pollen collected from Night-blooming cereus
Tip of a tulip stamen covered with pollen grains.

Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred to the female reproductive organs of a plant, thereby enabling fertilization to take place. Like all living organisms, seed plants have a single major purpose: to pass their genetic information on to the next generation. The reproductive unit is the seed, and pollination is an essential step in the production of seeds in all spermatophytes (seed plants).

For the process of pollination to be successful, a pollen grain produced by the anther, the male part of a flower, must be transferred to a stigma, the female part of the flower, of a plant of the same species. The process is rather different in angiosperms (flowering plants) from what it is in gymnosperms (other seed plants). In angiosperms, after the pollen grain has landed on the stigma, it creates a pollen tube which grows down the style until it reaches the ovary. Sperm cells from the pollen grain then move along the pollen tube, enter the egg 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 [1] [2] 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.

Pollination process

Pollen germination has three stages; hydration, activation and pollen tube emergence. The pollen grain is severely dehydrated so that its mass is reduced enabling it to be more easily transported from flower to flower. Germination only takes place after rehydration, ensuring that premature germination does not take place in the anther. Hydration allows the plasma membrane of the pollen grain to reform into its normal bilayer organization providing an effective osmotic membrane. Activation involves the development of actin filaments throughout the cytoplasm of the cell, which eventually become concentrated at the point from which the pollen tube will emerge. Hydration and activation continue as the pollen tube begins to grow. [3]

In conifers, the reproductive structures are borne on cones. The cones are either pollen cones (male) or ovulate cones (female), but some species are monoecious and others dioecious. A pollen cone contains hundreds of microsporangia carried on (or borne on) reproductive structures called sporophylls. Spore mother cells in the microsporangia divide by meiosis to form haploid microspores that develop further by two mitotic divisions into immature male gametophytes (pollen grains). The four resulting cells consist of a large tube cell that forms the pollen tube, a generative cell that will produce two sperm by mitosis, and two prothallial cells that degenerate. These cells comprise a very reduced microgametophyte, that is contained within the resistant wall of the pollen grain. [4] [5]

The pollen grains are dispersed by the wind to the female, ovulate cone that is made up of many overlapping scales (sporophylls, and thus megasporophylls), each protecting two ovules, each of which consists of a megasporangium (the nucellus) wrapped in two layers of tissue, the integument and the cupule, that were derived from highly modified branches of ancestral gymnosperms. When a pollen grain lands close enough to the tip of an ovule, it is drawn in through the micropyle ( a pore in the integuments covering the tip of the ovule) often by means of a drop of liquid known as a pollination drop. The pollen enters a pollen chamber close to the nucellus, and there it may wait for a year before it germinates and forms a pollen tube that grows through the wall of the megasporangium (=nucellus) where fertilisation takes place. During this time, the megaspore mother cell divides by meiosis to form four haploid cells, three of which degenerate. The surviving one develops as a megaspore and divides repeatedly to form an immature female gametophyte (egg sac). Two or three archegonia containing an egg then develop inside the gametophyte. Meanwhile, in the spring of the second year two sperm cells are produced by mitosis of the body cell of the male gametophyte. The pollen tube elongates and pierces and grows through the megasporangium wall and delivers the sperm cells to the female gametophyte inside. Fertilisation takes place when the nucleus of one of the sperm cells enters the egg cell in the megagametophyte’s archegonium. [5]

In flowering plants, the anthers of the flower produce microspores by meiosis. These undergo mitosis to form male gametophytes, each of which contains two haploid cells. Meanwhile, the ovules produce megaspores by meiosis, further division of these form the female gametophytes, which are very strongly reduced, each consisting only of a few cells, one of which is the egg. When a pollen grain adheres to the stigma of a carpel it germinates, developing a pollen tube that grows through the tissues of the style, entering the ovule through the micropyle. When the tube reaches the egg sac, two sperm cells pass through it into the female gametophyte and fertilisation takes place. [4]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Bestuiwing
العربية: تأبير
aragonés: Polinización
azərbaycanca: Tozlanma
বাংলা: পরাগায়ন
башҡортса: Һеркәләнеү
беларуская: Апыленне
български: Опрашване
bosanski: Oprašivanje
čeština: Opylení
Deutsch: Bestäubung
eesti: Tolmlemine
Ελληνικά: Επικονίαση
español: Polinización
Esperanto: Polenado
euskara: Polinizazio
français: Pollinisation
Gaeilge: Pailniú
한국어: 수분
Հայերեն: Փոշոտում
हिन्दी: परागण
hrvatski: Oprašivanje
Bahasa Indonesia: Penyerbukan
italiano: Impollinazione
עברית: האבקה
қазақша: Тозаңдану
Kreyòl ayisyen: Polinizasyon
Кыргызча: Чаңдашуу
latviešu: Apputeksnēšana
lietuvių: Apdulkinimas
magyar: Megporzás
മലയാളം: പരാഗണം
मराठी: परागीकरण
Bahasa Melayu: Pendebungaan
Nederlands: Bestuiving
日本語: 受粉
norsk nynorsk: Pollinering
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Changlanish
پنجابی: بی بنائی
polski: Zapylenie
português: Polinização
română: Polenizare
Runa Simi: Sisachay
русский: Опыление
Simple English: Pollination
slovenščina: Opraševanje
کوردی: پەڕین
српски / srpski: Oprašivanje
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Oprašivanje
suomi: Pölytys
svenska: Pollinering
Tagalog: Pambubulo
Türkçe: Tozlaşma
українська: Запилення
اردو: زیرگی
Tiếng Việt: Thụ phấn
中文: 传粉