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Grains of Pollen Photographed by an Electron Microscope

In continuing celebration of spring, I’m returning to the microscopic world to appreciate the beauty of pollen grains.  Ancient shamans intuited the generative nature of pollen and used it for ceremonial purposes: bright yellow pollen powder is still popular in Native American rituals today. However it was only with the advent of microscopy that we began to understand true range and beauty of pollen grains.

Acacia Pollen

Pollen grains contain male gametophytes which are ultimately meant to alight upon the proper carpel to unite with the female gametophyte cell and ultimately germinate into a genetically different offspring (my apologies to any impressionable readers out there).  Spring is such a difficult time for allergy sufferers because many common trees and grasses utilize this time of year for pollination: flowers are unblocked by mature leaves and a whole growing season stretches ahead.  It boggles the mind to imagine the immense community of tiny plant sex cells flying through the air around us and clinging to our bodies.

Himalayan Iris Pollen

Most of our favorite flowers and fruit have pollen which is entomophilous (i.e.carried by animals) and designed to stick to the leg of a bee or moth or some other pollinator.  Such grains tend to be like burs, with all sorts of strange miniscule hooks and spikes (they thus pose less of a problem for allergy sufferers–since they never make it to the nasal cavity).  Other plants literally cast their hopes upon the wind.  These anemophilous pollens are lightweight explorers produced in vast quantities and they get everywhere (to the misery of those with hay fever).

Pollen Nestling in the Cilia which Lines Your Upper Respiratory Tract

A Grain of Lavender Pollen Lying on a Lavendar Petal

Of course pollen is only one component of the microscopic jungle around us.  Right now you are sitting amidst an immense collection of fungal spores, infinitesimal mites, decaying skin cells, animal hair, bacteria, viruses, and even more esoteric flora and fauna.  Just imagine the coming world of nanotechnology where these various biological entities will be joined by infinitesimal man-made objects…

Insect Scales, Pollen, Hair, Manmade Fibers, Fungal Spores, and Dander

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

October 2020
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