Ways Flowers Are Pollinated

Pollination of a flower involves the movement of the male pollen grains to the sticky surface (stigma) of the female flower organ, the pistil. Pollination that occurs without the use of a creature is known as abiotic pollination, while when an animal or insect facilitates the process, it's called biotic pollination. While a bee is an easily recognized pollinator for many flowers, there are many other insects that pollinate flowers, too.


Wind pollination, called anemophily, is most common in flowers that produce copious amounts of pollen grains. Examples of plants that rely on wind for flower pollination include pine, oak, maple, willow and ragweed.


Typically found only in aquatic plants, pollen grains can be transported either underwater or on the water's surface to reach the female flower organs. Water-pollination, called hydrophily, can also take place via water droplets that result from dew or rainfall.


Some species of woodland violets pollinate themselves. This is facilitated by the growth (elongation) of stamens so that they physically curve to touch to female sex organ. Alternatively, the female pistil may elongate and curl to reach a cluster of pollen-shedding stamens in a different area of the blossom.


Surprisingly, many different types of animals can pollinate flowers (zoidiophily), often dictated by structure of the flower, what time of day the flower opens, or other alluring qualities (such as scent or taste of nectar) to coax animals to visit blossoms. Pollination by birds (ornithophily) including honey-eaters and hummingbirds is most common on flowers that are colorful and have a long tube structure. Snails or slug pollination (malacophily) and bats (chiropterophily) are two additionally recognized types of animal pollination in some species of plants.


A tremendous number of flowers are pollinated by insects, pollination known as entomophily. As with animals, many flower characteristics appeal to insects that are most effective as pollinators--such as what time of day the blossom opens, shape of the flower, or its sweet or foul fragrance. Pollinators include large bees (melittophily), small bees (micromelittophily), flies (myophily), small flies (micromyophily), carrion flies (sapromyophily), beetles (cantharophily), butterflies (physcophily) and sphinx moths (sphingophily).

Keywords: modes of pollination, flower pollination, plant sexual reproduction

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.