Saturday, May 1, 2021

What’s So Special About Pollen?

Check out this picture! Do you know what the tiny yellow bits are called? They are pollen! But did you know that not all pollen is yellow? It’s true! Pollen comes in many colors, and it all depends on what plant that it came from. 

Pollen is often brightly colored

Pollen that is transferred between plants helps to produce food. Each type of flower has a different pollen DNA. Just like human DNA, pollen (plant DNA) is unique to each species of plant. Pollen can help identify the origin of the plant because not all plants grow in all regions of the world!

Some specific physical characteristics of pollen are found on the outside shell of the pollen. Pollen can be transferred by 1) insects, 2) wind and 3) water. Today, we will focus on insect and wind pollen. Insect pollen has tiny barbs that hook on to the hair of insects and fibers on clothing. Wind pollen is smooth and lightweight so that it can be picked up easily and float in the air. In general, pollen’s color is bright reds, oranges, and yellows. However, some plants produce green or blue pollen. 

There are many different colors, shapes, and sizes of pollen.

Surprisingly, there are 380,000 pollen-producing plants worldwide! These plants range from flowering honeysuckle vines to tall, cone-bearing pine trees. Some popular snack foods that are pollinated by honey bees include blueberries, strawberries, oranges, avocados, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers, just to name a few! Pollen is the plant’s way of reproducing itself. In fact, one-third of our food is pollinated by honey bees. Isn’t that amazing?!

This sunflower is made of multiple small buds,
making it a valuable resource for pollinators.

Bonus: While bee pollen can be eaten, always check with your doctor before you try it. Pollen can be sprinkled on salads, mixed in your protein shake or added to your hot chocolate. Honey bees collect pollen to eat as their protein resource! 

This pollen is a shade of white/tan.

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