Though we associate pollen with the color yellow, pollen can come in many vibrant colors, including red, purple, white, and brown. Since insect pollinators, such as bees, can’t see red, plants produce yellow (or sometimes blue) pollen to attract them.
This is why most plants have yellow pollen, but there are some exceptions. For instance, birds and butterflies are attracted to red colors, so some plants produce red pollen to attract these organisms.
In order for pollination to occur, the pollen grain must germinate in the female portion (carpel) of the same plant or another plant of the same species. In flowering plants, the stigma portion of the carpel collects the pollen.
The vegetative cells in the pollen grain create a pollen tube to tunnel down from the stigma, through the long style of the carpel, to the ovary. Division of the generative cell produces two sperm cells, which travel down the pollen tube into the ovule. This journey usually takes up to two days, but some sperm cells can take months to reach the ovary.
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Factoid of the Week:
Microscopic pollen grains that carry a certain type of protein are typically the cause of allergic reactions. Immune system cells, called B cells, produce antibodies in reaction to the pollen. This overproduction of antibodies leads to the activation of other white blood cells such as basophils and mast cells. These cells produce histamine, which dilates blood vessels and results in allergy symptoms including a stuffy nose and swelling around the eyes.
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