Pollen

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Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement between the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. When pollen lands on a compatible pistil of flowering plants, it germinates and produces a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule of a receptive ovary. The individual pollen grains are small enough to require magnification to see detail.

Contents

The structure and formation of pollen

Pollen itself is not the male gamete.[1] Each pollen grain contains vegetative (non-reproductive) cells (only a single cell in most flowering plants but several in other seed plants) and a generative (reproductive) cell containing two nuclei: a tube nucleus (that produces the pollen tube) and a generative nucleus (that divides to form the two sperm cells). The group of cells is surrounded by a cellulose-rich cell wall called the intine, and a resistant outer wall composed largely of sporopollenin called the exine.

Pollen is produced in the microsporangium (contained in the anther of an angiosperm flower, male cone of a coniferous plant, or male cone of other seed plants). Pollen grains come in a wide variety of shapes (most often spherical), sizes, and surface markings characteristic of the species (see electron micrograph at top right). Pollen grains of pines, firs, and spruces are winged. The smallest pollen grain, that of the Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.), is around 6 µm (0.006  mm) in diameter. Wind-borne pollen grains can be as large as about 90-100 µm.[2] The study of pollen is called palynology and is highly useful in paleoecology, paleontology, archeology, and forensics.

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