Plant Structure, Function, and Use


How does cross-pollination occur?

Cross-pollination agents include insects, wind, birds, mammals, and water. Many times flowers offer one or more “rewards” to attract these agents—sugary nectar, oil, solid food bodies, perfume, a place to sleep, or sometimes the pollen itself. Other times the plant can “trap” the agent into transporting the pollen. Plant structure can accommodate the type of agent used. For example, plants such as grasses and conifers, whose pollen is carried by the wind, tend to have a simple structure lacking petals, with freely exposed and branched stigmas to catch airborne pollen and dangling anthers (pollen-producing parts) on long filaments. This type of anther allows the light round pollen to be easily caught by the wind. These plants are found in areas such as prairies and mountains, where insect agents are rare. In contrast, semi-enclosed, non-symmetrical, long-living flowers such as irises, roses, and snapdragons have a “landing platform” and nectar in the flower base to accommodate insect agents such as the bee. The sticky, abundant pollen can easily become attached to the insect to be borne away to another flower.


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