What Are the Functions of Pollen?

Overview

The ultimate function of pollen is to deliver male gametes (sperm) from the stamen of a plant to an ovule for fertilization of an egg, which then develops into a seed.

Origins

Pollen is an evolutionary development found in highly derived plants⎯angiosperms and gymnosperms⎯that protects the gametes and allows for fertilization without water and gives pollen-producing plants the ability to disperse their gametes farther and in more diverse environments than more primitive seedless plants.

Seedless Plants

Seedless vascular plants and bryophytes lack pollen and instead release flagellated sperm that require at least a film of water through which to swim to the egg.

Dispersal

Wind or a pollinating animal can spread pollen, and pollen morphology shows which of these vectors a plant species prefers. Smaller, smoother pollen usually is wind dispersed, while larger, spinier varieties evolved to attach to pollinators.

Anatomy

Each pollen grain has a sporopollenin-coated shell that contains non-reproductive vegetative cells, male gametes and a cell that forms a pollen tube upon contact with the ovule.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to airborne pollen grains are common among humans. They are often referred to as hay fever.

References

  • Structure Vs. Function in Pollen Grains
  • Biology: Fifth Edition; Campbell, Neil A., et al.; 1999

Who Can Help

  • Univeristy of Arizona's Pollen Grain of the Month!
Keywords: Pollen, Pollination, Pollen Grains, Flowers, Allergies

About this Author

Ripa Ajmera has been writing for six years. She has written for ABCNews.com, General Nutrition Center (GNC), TCW Finance, Alliance for a New Humanity, Washington Square News and more. She was a Catherine B. Reynolds Scholar from 2006-2008 and graduated from New York University Stern School of Business with an honors degree in marketing.