Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Private Lives of Plants #3:  Birds and Bees

Overview:  Consider the plant-way-of-life.  One problem associated with their stationary lifestyle is how to get the gametes (sex cells = egg & sperm) from one individual to another.  As a consequence, flowering plants have evolved a variety of fascinating mechanisms to transfer the sperm-producing pollen to the egg-bearing pistil of the female.  This video highlights some of the vectors that plants use to carry out this transfer and from a green perspective; many of these vectors have become �slaves� to the plants.

Matching Question:  Match the following floral features with the likely pollinator
                a.  bird     b.  fly     c.  insect     d.  wind

  red flowers   plants pollinated by this method are likely to cause hayfever
  rancid, foetid odor   the stigmas (receptive surface of the female) are feathery
  copious pollen produced   flowers produce nectar and/or odor (2 answers)
  flowers not colorful   flowers often maroon or dark-red in color
  flowers in clusters called catkins   flowers blue or other colors
  flowers without odor (2 answers)   male flowers and female flowers on separate plants

Fill-In-the-Blank Question
Identify the pollination vector for each of the following

  pohutakawa (New Zealand)
  traveler palm (Madagascar)
  orchids (in general)


Short Answer Questions:

  1. A species of protea in South Africa is pollinated by mice.  What are some of the features this plant has evolved for mouse pollination?


  2. Identify at least FOUR ways that plants use to attract and reward its pollinator.


  3.  The titan lily is the largest flowering unit.  Why did evolution favor the evolution of such a large flower?  In other words, of what advantage is a large flower?  For more information about this plant check out this web site from the University of Wisconsin Greenhouse.


  4. Most pollen is released from the anther of the stamen individually, as separate pollen grains.  In some plants, however, the pollen remains clumped in a large waxy mass, called a pollinium (plural � pollinia) that must be transferred as an entire unit. 

  1. Name a group of plants that produce pollen in pollinia ____________________________

  2. Do you hypothesize that plants that rely on the transfer of pollinia will produce many, or just a few, seeds in each of their seed pods.  Explain.

  3. Do you hypothesize that plants that rely on the transfer of pollinia will rely on a single specialized pollinator, or be pollinated by a variety of pollinators?  Explain.

  4. Do you hypothesize that plants that rely on the transfer of pollinia will be common or rare.  Explain.

Multiple Choice
Which of the following can you find inside a fig?
    a.  dead male wasps        d.  female flowers
    b.  fig seeds                    e.  all of the above
    c.  male flowers

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Last updated:  02/10/2005 / � Copyright  by SG Saupe