Cool things I’ve learned about pollen

Dandelion pollen is one of my favourites

Dandelion pollen is one of my favourites

Sporopollenin, making up the exine or outer shell of pollen grains, is the most inert organic compound known, resisting both chemical and physical forces as well as decay.  That means it makes great fossils for millions of years, and resistant to enzymatic digestion so that it is still present in bee feces (as well as human feces).  It can resist UV radiation and temperatures up to 300C.  Pollen grains have been used to study the diet of the Iceman.

I think this is teasel...not 100% positive though

I think this is honeysuckle pollen

Pollen comes in a variety of colours, from yellow (willow), orange (dandelion), grey (fireweed), or even purple (thistle), but most pollen is yellow.

All of my pollen grains look purple because I stain them using basic fuchsin to better see the structural characters.

All of my pollen grains look purple because I stain them using basic fuchsin to better see the structural characters.  This is Sweet Gum pollen (Liquidambar)

Most pollen grains range between 20-30 micrometers, but the smallest angiosperm pollen is 5 microns, while the largest terrestrial angiosperm pollen is 350 (Cymbopetalum odoratissimum). The marine angiosperm Zostera marina has tubular pollen exceeding 2,500 micros in length and 3-4 microns in diameter. Amphibolis has tubular pollen exceeding up to 5 mm!

Cool striate sculpturing on this grain

Cool striate sculpturing on this grain

Wind dispersed pollen tends to be smooth and simple, while animal dispersed pollen tends to be highly structured, sculptured, rough, or spiny.

Dandelion pollen is definitely meant to be animal dispersed.  The asters tend to be very spiny.

Dandelion pollen is definitely meant to be animal dispersed. The asters tend to be very spiny.

The majority of dicotyledons produce pollen grains with three furrows and three pores: tricolporate.

Like basically everything on this slide

Like basically everything on this slide

The pollen of some gymnosperms has little balloons attached to it to help it float.  They look like Mickey Mouse.

Abies pollen grain, downloaded from the internet...haven't found any of these on my bees yet!

Abies pollen grain, downloaded from the internet…haven’t found any of these on my bees yet!  source

Pollen has antibacterial properties, and in fact “extracts of Prosopis pollen can produce a reactive zone against Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in which commercial antibiotics have no effect; Prosopis pollen extracts thus gave better results than those produced by antibiotics like Netromycin and Vancomycin” (Agashe and Caulton, 2009).

Comparing different pollen sizes

Comparing different pollen sizes

Pollen is 7-40% protein, 1.5-3% fat, 7-12% carbohydrate, and 2.8-10.6% minerals (Agashe and Caulton, 2009).

I have no idea what this is yet, but it's pretty.

I have no idea what this is yet, but it’s pretty.

Honey contaminated with Lasiosiphon pollen is toxic.

Ditto

Ditto

Pollen has been identified up to 1,000 km from its plant source.

I'm learning!

I’m learning!

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5 thoughts on “Cool things I’ve learned about pollen

  1. Channelling Damian Hirst – a new “natural” series to supersede spots, butterflies etc. Endless possibilities for “Pollen Abstract I” to “Pollen Abstract XXV” in silk-screen limited editions. $78,000 a pop. RH

  2. Pingback: The artistry of pollen grains | standingoutinmyfield

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