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Happy Hour at the Stamen and Pistil

by Klaire Freeman

In the complex world of biology there are many strange practices involved in reproduction, from courtship dances and gifts from the male to the female to traumatic insemination and sexual cannibalism. Pollination is, perhaps, one of the more elegant means of producing offspring. Pollination involves the successful transfer of pollen, which carries the sperm, to the stigma, which functions as a gateway to the eggs. The reproduction of about 13% of flowering plants depends on abiotic factors: water or wind (Ollerton et al. 2011).  In these cases, habitat plays the largest role for pollination success, and the process is not particularly intricate.
The remaining 87% of flowering plants depend on animals to reproduce. Plants have developed several ingenious ways to attract pollinators, aside from their offering nourishing nectar as a food reward.  Plants take advantage of insects’ vision, using pigments in the petals that reflect ultraviolet light (UV). Streaks of pigment  “point” pollinators to the nectar and, most importantly, the pollen.