What is pollination?

Just like animals and people, plants make babies too. 

The male part of a flower has the pollen. Pollen is the powdery stuff you can see in the centre of plants. The female part of a flower has the eggs or 'ovules'. When the pollen from the male meets the ovule of a female it’s called pollination.



Some plants can pollinate all by themselves but other plants need help.

  • Self-pollination is when plants can pollinate themselves. This can happen to plants that have both female and male parts. The pollen finds its way into the ovule by itself.
  • Cross-pollination is when insects or the wind carries pollen from a male plant to a female plant. This is the most popular form of pollination.

 

How do flowers attract insects?

Some flowers have colourful petals and beautiful smells that attract insects. They also produce a sugary liquid called nectar that insects love to drink. When the insect goes to the flower for a drink, the pollen sticks to its little legs and body. When the insect flies away to another plant, it takes the pollen with it. How clever!



 

In comes the wind

Flowers that use the wind to pollinate don’t have colourful flowers or sweet nectar. The male flowers have their anthers on the outside of the flower. The anther is the part which makes pollen. When the wind blows, it carries the pollen with it. 

 

What is fertilisation?

Once pollen from a male plant has been taken to the stigma of a female plant, it’s time for fertilisation. Fertilisation is when a pollen tube grows and makes its way down to the ovary of the female. 



Inside the ovary are little eggs called ovules. When the pollen tube reaches the ovule it releases its content inside. The male and female parts mix together and a seed is created. The ovary creates a fruit or pod to protect the seed inside. And that’s what we eat! 

The flowers of some plants only have one ovule in their ovaries. These grow fruits with just one seed like plums and peaches. Other flowers have lots of ovules in their ovaries and make fruit with many seeds like apples and kiwis.

 

Did you know?

  • Some people are allergic to pollen.
  • Some flowers pollinate in the evening like jasmine and honeysuckle which is why these plants smell stronger when it gets darker. 
  • Pollination can only happen between plants that are the same type. For example, a rose can only pollinate another rose.