Field of Science

What is pollen?

Dear Phytophactor, Apart from you blog the best description I can find is that pollen is essentially a "detachable plant penis".  But you refer to pollen as a "male organisms". So is "detachable plant penis a reasonable description, or is that lending itself to another misconception?  An interested reader.

Dear Reader, Trust your Phytophactor to get such things correct.  Pollen is a whole male organism, sex organ included (which it really doesn't have), although a pollen tube delivers the sperm.

Dear Phytophactor,  Thanks, but if I can ask another question.  My confusion stems from the my not understanding if pollen is a male organism, how does that work?  So does a male organism produce tons of tiny male organisms?  I'm guessing that the real problem is the desire to fully equate plant and animal reproduction, but I'm struggling to understand a male producing lots of males to reproduce.

Dear Reader, Bingo, you can't equate the plant sexual life cycle to that of animals.  The plant life cycle evolved to solve the problem of living on land.  Swimming sperm could no longer disperse to find an egg to fertilize, so plants make tiny disposable males (pollen, which is really a spore prior to development.)  So equating plants to animals is the real problem, but people did do that although it came our totally wrong, flowers don't have ovaries (the units thereof are modified leaves bearing sporangia, carpels), and those sporangia, while eggish looking, are not ovules but sporangia that produce one big spore that develops into a female who produces an egg.  The anthers are also modified leaves bearing sporangia that produce lots of small spores that become pollen.
Hope that helps; look up a fern life cycle and then imagine the haploid gametophyte (a sexual organism) as being either male or female (as in seed plants & there are a couple of other differences too).  You might want to get a copy of "How the Earth turned green" from Chicago University Press. This book spends a lot of time explaining this.  You might also check out my blog on seeds.

This is the kind of question TPP tends to get, plant misconception piled on top of plant misconception. But kindly TPP did not name the reader.

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