Pollen – National Geographic Magazine


“Then one day more than 375 million years ago, it happened. One lineage of plants evolved pollen grains and seeds, and from then on nothing was the same. Let’s not mince words. Pollen is plant sperm–two individuals per grain–surrounded by a single, often golden, wall that offers both protection and chariot. If the tension in the long story of plants was the distance between lovers, pollen was what would bring them together, over feet or even across continents. It was an evolutionary trick that transformed the world by letting strangers have sex. (…) The target that each of those billions of pollen grains aims for is the naked ovule (the future seed) of another plant of the same species. At the ovule, which contains an egg cell, the pollen grain attempts to initiate a tube to connect sperm and egg. If the pollen lands on the wrong species of plant or is too weak or old, the tube does not form. But every so often it does, and then one of the two sperm, the chosen one, travels to fertilization, and a viable seed develops. That there are plants at all is testament to the more than occasional success of this intimate, improbable lottery.”



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