What Is Pollination in Plants? - Definition & Types

What Is Pollination in Plants? - Definition & Types
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  • 0:23 Definition of Pollination
  • 1:10 Types of Pollination
  • 2:07 Cross-Pollination Strategies
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

This lesson will focus on the important process of pollination in plants. The lesson will also explain the types of pollination and how the environment and animals are involved in pollination.

A Look at Pollination

All living organisms have one major goal in common, which is to pass along their genetic information to the next generation by creating offspring. Flowering plants create seeds, which carry the genetic information of the parents and develop into a new plant. In order for seeds to be created, a process called pollination must occur.

Pollination is when pollen grains from an anther, the male portion of a flower, are transferred to a female part in the flower, known as the stigma. In order for pollination to be successful, the pollen grains transferred must be from a flower of the same species.

After the pollen grains land on the stigma, they create a pollen tube through the length of the style or stalk connecting the stigma and ovary. Once the pollen tube is complete, the pollen grain will send sperm cells from the grain down to the ovary. When the sperm cells reach the ovary and the egg cells, fertilization will occur, which will result in the formation of the seed. The seed will then be released from the parent plant and will be able to grow into a plant and continue the reproductive cycle using the method of pollination.

The Structures of a Flower
Diagram of a flower

Types of Pollination

Although all flowering plants rely on pollination for reproduction, there is a variation in how plants pollinate. There are two types of pollination, called self-pollination and cross-pollination.

Self-pollination is the more basic type of pollination because it only involves one flower. This type of pollination occurs when pollen grains from the anther fall directly onto the stigma of the same flower. Although this type of pollination is simple and quick, it does result in a reduction in genetic diversity because the sperm and egg cells of the same flower share genetic information.

Cross-pollination is a more complex type of pollination that involves the transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of a different flower. This type of pollination results in an increase in genetic diversity because the different flowers are sharing and mixing their genetic information to create unique offspring.

Cross-Pollination Strategies

Cross-pollination is more complex than self-pollination because it requires the movement of pollen from one flower to another flower. There are several strategies that flowering plants utilize to move pollen from one flower to another, including wind, water, and animal pollinators.

Wind is commonly used to transport pollen long distances. Plants that use wind to transport pollen often have pollen grains that are small, lightweight, and smooth. These plants are also often found in large populations because this increases the chance of a pollen grain landing on a flower of the same species. Although this strategy is not common, some plants rely on water to transport their pollen to other flowers. Water transportation of pollen can involve rain water or waterways, such as streams.

Pollination can be observed first hand by watching the movements of animal pollinators. Animal pollinators are organisms that travel from flower to flower and transfer pollen to each flower they visit. This type of pollination is very important because around 80% of all flowering plants and 75% of staple crop plants require animals to help complete the pollination process.

Some common animal pollinators that you may have seen flying from flower to flower include bees, beetles, birds, flies, moths, bats, and butterflies. Although much less common, there are some larger animal pollinators, such as the honey possums of Australia and the ruffed lemurs of Madagascar.

Animal Pollinators: Bee (left) and Bat (right)
Animal Pollinators

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