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Adding Value To The Business of Cropping

Pollen collecting

Learning Intentions:

    Students will be able to:
  • Locate stamens in different types of flowers.
  • Collect pollen samples from stamens and mount them.
  • Explain the importance of pollen in the process of fertilisation and seed production.

What You Will Need:

  • A selection of flowers. (Note, pollen can be collected from larger flowers without picking them. However, small flowers need careful, close-up handling, which is best done on a table using tweezers.)
  • Sellotape.
  • Black paper or card.
  • Magnifying glasses.
  • Plastic tweezers can be helpful in removing flower parts to access stamens.
  • Microscopes (optional).
  • Microscope slides (optional).

What to do

  1. Collect a variety of flowers that are in fresh, full bloom. They need to be fully open and not too old. Several students should be able to use a single large flower, but smaller flowers may only have enough pollen for one student.

    Examples of flowers for pollen sampling. 

  2. Back indoors, inspect a flower closely to locate its stamens. Sometimes you may need to look inside the flower to locate them. These are the structures that produce the pollen. 
  3. Gently dab the sticky side of a 3 cm length of sellotape onto the stamens. Pollen should stick to it. Make sure you get a good amount of pollen, but try not to pull the stamens off.

    Using sellotape to take a sample of pollen from a flower's stamens.

  4. Stick the sample on a black piece of paper and label it.

    Pollen samples from two different types of flowers.

  5. Repeat for other flowers.
  6. View the grains through a magnifying glass.
  7. If you have a microscope, then tape some samples to microscope slides to view them. Magnifications of x40 and x100 are best.

    Pollen sample sellotaped to a microscope slide.

Questions and discussion

  1. Describe where stamens can be found in different types of flowers.
  2. For different flower types are there differences in the amount, colour, shape and size of pollen grains? Describe them.
  3. How would an insect carry pollen from flower to flower? Do they do this on purpose?
  4. What is the purpose of pollen and why is it important? 
  5. If pollen could not get from flower to flower, what would happen?
  6. Why are pollination 'vectors' (e.g. honey bees, birds like tūī that visit flowers, and wind) important?

Going further

Find out more about pollen, for example:

  • its different shapes and forms
  • how it sticks to animals 
  • how it gets transported by the wind
  • why it is found in honey.

Related resources

Flower facts Info sheet

Flower dissection Activity

Moving pollen flower-to-flower Info Sheet

Secret flowers 

Picture credits: Thumbnail image (CC BY-SA Josef Reischig).