Plants do not have feet. They cannot walk or run. Unlike you, plants are stuck. Most of the time, being rooted in place is just fine. However, when it comes to making new plants, not being able to move can be a problem. To help them, plants have a secret weapon that allows them, or at least parts of them, to fly through the air and make new plants.
If you have ever smelled a flower and found yellow dust on your nose, you have met a plant's secret weapon. Wind, water, and animals pick up this fine, yellow dust and carry it to other flowers. That dust contains the boy plant cells. These cells help make new plants when they reach the girl parts of a flower. Pollen is the name of the yellow dust containing boy plant cells.
Pollen: what makes bees happy makes me sneeze.
Pollen may seem magical because it lets plants move from place to place while standing still, but it does not come from thin air. Look around the center of most flowers, and you will find where the plant makes this magic dust. Here you will see a group of several parts that look like they could be tiny flowers from another plant. The stamen looks like a little flower and is the home of all the boy plant parts that make and hold the flower's pollen. Some flowers have both boy and girl plant parts, while others have only one or the other.
Calling all bees, calling all bees.
The flower makes its pollen at the very top of the stamen. This part has four leaves, like a four-leaf clover, each with a little sack that holds the magic dust. This pollen factory stays closed up tight like a flower bud while the flower makes the boy plant cells. When the fine grains are ready, the little bud opens. Then wind, water, or animals carry the boy plant cells to the girl plant parts. The flower's pollen factory is known as the anther.
A long, thin stem holds up the anther, allowing it to stand up tall. When birds or bees visit the flower for food, they brush against the boy plant parts. This way the boy plant cells hitch a ride to a nearby flower. The stem that holds the anther and the pollen up is called the filament. The filament and the anther are the two parts that make up the flower-like stamen.
Pollen is a plant's secret weapon, made by the boy plant parts. It flies through the air, just like Superman, carried by wind or visiting animals. When pollen reaches the girl parts of the plant, a seed is born. If the seed is planted, watered, and warmed by the sun, a new plant grows. The plant magically has made a new plant -- without moving at all.
Ed. Richard Robinson. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2009.
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Plant, Rev. ed. David Burnie. New York: DK Publishing, 2011. 16-17.
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