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Plants for Pollinators

Part One:
This series focuses on growing healthy plants for pollinators. Part One focuses on the question “What is pollination?”

By definition, pollination is the process of a pollen grain transferring from the anther to the stigma. 

How does pollination work? 
A bee lands in a flower to feed.  Pollen from the flower’s anthers (male part) dusts its body. With pollen clinging to it, the bee flies on to another flower.  As the bee feeds, pollen is brushed onto the pistil (female part) of the second flower.  Pollen grains travel down to the ovules, and fertilize them. Flower petals drop and the fruit begins to swell.  Inside the ripe fruit, ovules have become the seeds. 

Pollination affects fruit production:
Pollinators such as bees play an important part in food production for human consumption.  Most flowering plants reproduce by enlisting animals (mainly insects) to carry and distribute pollen, pollen and ovules must join for fruit to set, ripen and create seeds. 
Vine crops like squash, cucumber, pumpkin, and melons are monoecious plants, meaning a single plant has both male and female flowers. Male flowers contain pollen, and the female plants contain only pistils with ovules; bees are critical to the fruit production for these plants.  When plants have low production numbers or small fruit that does not develop completely this can be due to a lack of, or incomplete, pollination.
Some crops are dioecious, separate plants with only male flowers, and female plants with only female flowers. Winterberry is a hardy Minnesota example; often grown as a landscape plant, the bright red fruit provides both winter interest, and food for birds.  One male plant is required for the female plant to produce this fruit.  Pollinators are required to move the pollen from one plant to another, without adequate pollination, fruit will not form. 
Pollen can be fine and powdery, easily blown along by wind; or it can be heavy and sticky, requiring animal pollination. 

Flowers use nectar as one way to attract pollinators.  This sugar-rich liquid provides energy for pollinator flight. Plants also lure pollinators by flowers of different shapes, sizes, smells and color.  Some flower pigments reflect the sun’s ultraviolet light, creating a dazzling pattern invisible to humans.  These patterns, called “nectar guides” are like maps directing insects to the nectar. While consuming nectar, pollen is collected by insects.

In part one, you have learned about how pollination works; and how pollination affects food production. In part two, you will discover what makes an efficient pollinator, learn about bees that are native to Minnesota, and touch on the global impact of pollinators.


To receive this series via email, please contact Ashleigh at  


Ashleigh Omlid
Administrative Assistant
(218) 935-2226
Lacy Wulfekuhle
Extension Educator, Ag Prod Sys/Home & Community Horticulture
(218) 784-5550
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