Pre fertilization : Structures and Events of Flowering Plants

Much before the actual flower is seen on a plant, the decision that the plant is going to flower has taken place. Several hormonal and structural changes are initiated which lead to the differentiation and further development of the floral primordium. Inflorescences are formed which bear the floral buds and then the flowers. In the flower the male and female reproductive structures, the androecium and the gynoecium differentiate and develop. You would recollect that the androecium consists of a whorl of stamens representing the male reproductive organ and the gynoecium represents the female reproductive organ. The two parts of a typical stamen the long and slender stalk called the filament, and the terminal generally bilobed structure called the anther. The proximal end of the filament is attached to the thalamus or the petal of the flower. The number and length of stamens are variable in flowers of different species. If you were to collect a stamen each from ten flowers (each from different species) and arrange them on a slide, you would be able to appreciate the large variation in size seen in nature. Careful observation of each stamen under a dissecting microscope and making neat diagrams would elucidate the range in shape and attachment of anthers in different flowers. A typical angiosperm anther is bilobed with each lobe having two theca, i.e., they are dithecous. Often a longitudinal groove runs lengthwise separating the theca. Let us understand the various types of tissues and their organisation in the transverse section of an anther. The bilobed nature of an anther is very distinct in the transverse section of the anther. The anther is a four-sided (tetragonal) structure consisting of four microsporangia located at the corners, two in each lobe. The microsporangia develop further and become pollen sacs. They extend longitudinally all through the length of an anthr and are packed with pollen grains.

Structure of microsporangium: In a transversesection, a typical microsporangium appears near circular in outline. It is generally surrounded by four wall layers- the epidermis, endothecium, middle layers and the tapetum. The outer three wall layers perform the function of protection and help in dehiscence of anther to release the pollen. The innermost wall layer is the tapetum. It nourishes the developing pollen grains. Cells of the tapetum possess dense cytoplasm and generally have more than one nucleus. Can you think of how tapetal cells could become bi-nucleate? When the anther is young, a group of compactly arranged homogenous cells called the sporogenous tissue occupies the centre of each microsporangium.

Microsporogenesis: As the anther develops, the cells of the sporogenous tissue undergo meiotic divisions to form microspore tetrads. What would be the ploidy of the cells of the tetrad?

As each cell of the sporogenous tissue is capable of giving rise to a microspore tetrad. Each one is a potential pollen or microspore mother cell. The process of formation of microspores from a pollen mother cell (PMC) through meiosis is called microsporogenesis. The microspores, dred are formed, are arranged in a cluster of four cells-the microspore tetiee. As the anthers mature and dehydrate, the microspores dissociate from each other and develop into pollen grains (Figure 2.5 D. Inside each microsporangium several thousands of microspores or ponen grains are formed that are released with the dehiscence of anther.

Pollen grain: The pollen grains represent the male gametophytes. If you touch the opened anthers of Hibiscus or any other flower you would find deposition of yellowish powdery pollen grains on your fingers. Sprinkle these grains on a drop of water taken on a glass slide and observe under a microscope. You will really be amazed at the variety of architecture sizes, shapes, colours, designs seen on the pollen grains from different species. Pollen grains are generally spherical measuring about 25-50 micrometers in diameter. It has a prominent two-layered wall. The hard outer layer called the exine is made up of sporopollenin which is one of the most resistant organic material known. It can withstand high temperatures and strong acids and alkali. No enzyme that degrades sporopollenin is so far known. Pollen grain exine has prominent apertures called germ pores where sporopollenin is absent. Pollen grains are well- preserved as fossils because of the presence of sporopollenin. The exine exhibits a fascinating array of patterns and designs. Why do you think the exine should be hard? What is the function of germ pore? The inner wall of the pollen grain is called the intine. It is a thin and continuous layer made up of The cytoplasm of pollen grain is surrounded by a plasma membrane. When the pollen grain is mature it contains two cells, the vegetative cell and generative cell. The vegetative cell is bigger, has abundant food reserve and a large irregularly shaped nucleus. The generative cell is small and floats in the cytoplasm of the vegetative cell. It is spindle shaped with dense cytoplasm and a nucleus. In over 60 per cent of angiosperms, pollen grains are shed at this 2-celled stage. In the remaining species, the generative cell divides mitotically to give rise to the two male gametes before pollen grains are shed (3-celled stage). Pollen grains of many species cause severe allergies and bronchial afflictions in some people often leading of chronic respiratory disorders asthma, bronchitis, etc. It may be mentioned that parthenium or Carrot grass that came into india as a contaminant with imported wheat, has become ubiquitous in occurrence and causes pollen allergy. Pollen grains are rich in nutrients. It has become a fashion in recent years to use pollen tablets as food supplements. In western countries, a large number of pollen products in the form of tablets and syrups are available in the market. Pollen consumption has been claimed to increase the performance of athletes and race horses When once they are shed, pollen grains have to land on the stigma before they lose viability if they have to bring about fertilisation. How long do you think the pollen grains retain viability? The period for which pollen grains remain viable is highly variable and to some extent depends on the prevailing temperature and humidity. In some cereals such as rice and wheat, pollen grains lose viability within 30 minutes of their release, and in some members of Rosaceae, Leguminoseae and Solanaceae, they maintain viability for months. You may have heard of storing semen/ sperms of many animals including humans for artificial insemination. It is possible to store pollen grains of a large number of species for years in liquid nitrogen (-196°C). Such stored pollen can be used as pollen banks, similar to seed banks, in crop breeding programmes.


In the preceding sections you have learnt that the male and female gametes in flowering plants are produced in the pollen grain and embryo sac, respectively. As both types of gametes are non-motile, they have to be brought together for fertilisation to occur. How is this achieved? Pollination is the mechanism to achieve this objective. Transfer of pollen grains (shed from the anther) to the stigma of a pistil is termed pollination. Flowering plants have evolved an amazing array of adaptations to achieve pollination. They make use of external agents to achieve pollination. Can you list the possible external agents? Kinds of Pollination : Depending on the source of pollen, pollination can be divided into three types.

Autogamy: In this type, pollination is achieved within the same flower. Transfer of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of the same flower. In a normal flower which opens and exposes the anthers and the stigma, complete autogamy is rather rare. Autogamy in such flowers requires synchrony in pollen release and stigma receptivity and also, the anthers and the stigma should lie close to each other so that self-pollination can occur. Some plants such as Viola (common pansy), Oxalis, and Commelina produce two chasmogamous flowers which are similar to flowers of other species with exposed anthers and stigma, and cleistogamous flowers which do not open at all. In such flowers, the anthers and stigma lie close to each other. When anthers dehisce in the flower buds, pollen grains come in contact with the stigma to effect pollination. Thus, cleistogamous flowers are invariably autogamous as there is no chance of .cross-pollen landing on the stigma. Cleistogamous flowers produce assured seed-set even in the absence of pollinators. Do you think that cleistogamy is advantageous or disadvantageous to the plant?

Geitonogamy: Transfer of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of another flower of the same plant. Although geitonogamy is functionally cross-pollination involving a pollinating agent, genetically it is similar to autogamy since the pollen grains come from the same plant.

Xenogamy: anther to the stigma of a different plant ). This is the only type of pollination which during pollination brings genetically different types of pollen grains to the stigma.

Agents of Pollination : Plants use two abiotic (wind and water) and one biotic (animals) agents to achieve pollination. Majority of plants use biotic agents for pollination. Only a small proportion of plants use abiotic agents. Pollen grains coming in contact with the stigma is a chance factor in both wind and water pollination. To compensate for this uncertainties and associated loss of pollen grains, the flowers produce enormous amount of pollen when compared to the number of ovules available for pollination. Pollination by wind is more common amongst abiotic pollinations. Wind pollination also requires that the pollen grains are light and non-sticky so that they can be transported in wind currents. They often possess well-exposed stamens (so that the pollens are easily dispersed into wind currents, and large often-feathery stigma to easily trap air-borne pollen grains. Wind- pollinated flowers often have a single ovule in each ovary and numerous flowers packed into an inflorescence; a familiar example is the corn – the tassels you see are nothing but the cob-stigma and style which wave in the wind to trap pollen grains. Wind-pollination is quite common in grasses. Pollination by water is quite rare in flowering plants and is limited to about 30 genera, mostly monocotyledons. As against this, you would recall that water is a regular mode of transport for the male gametes among the lower plant groups such as algae, bryophytes and pteridophytes. It is believed, particularly for some bryophytes and pteridophytes, that their distribution is limited because of the need for water for the transport of male gametes and fertilisation. Some examples of water pollinated plants are Vallisneria and Hydrilla which grow in fresh water and several marine sea-grasses such as Zostera. Not all aquatic plants use water for pollination. In a majority of aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and water lily, the flowers emerge above the level of water and are pollinated by inssects or wind as in most of the land plants. In Vallisneria, the female flower reaches the surface of water by the long stalk and the male flowers or pollen grains are released on to the surface of water. They are carried passively by water currents; some of them eventually reach the female flowers and the stigma. In another group of water pollinated plants such as sea grasses, female flowers remain submerged in water and the pollen grains are released inside the water. Pollen grains in many such species are long, ribbon like and they are carried passively inside the water; some of them reach the stigma and achieve pollination. In most of the water-pollinated species, pollen grains are protected from wetting by a mucilaginous covering. Both wind and water pollinated flowers are not very colourful and do not produce nectar.

Pollen-pistil Interaction: Pollination does not guarantee the transfer of the right type of pollen (compatible pollen of the same species as the stigma). Often, pollen of the wrong type, either from other species or from the same plant (if it is self-incompatible), also land on the stigma. The pistil has the ability to recognise the pollen, whether it is of the right type (compatible) or of the wrong type (incompatible). If it is of the right type, the pistil accepts the pollen and promotes post-pollination events that lead to fertilisation. If the pollen is of the wrong type, the pistil rejects the pollen by preventing pollen germination on the stigma or the pollen tube growth in the style. The ability of the pistil to recognise the pollen followed by its acceptance or rejection is the result of a continuous dialogue between pollen grain and the pistil. This dialogue is mediated by chemical components of the pollen interacting with those of the pistil. It is only in recent years that botanists have been able to identify some of the pollen and pistil components and the interactions leading to the recognition, followed by acceptance or rejection. As mentioned earlier, following compatible pollination, the pollen grain germinates on the stigma to produce a pollen tube through one of the germ pores (Figure 2.12a). The contents of the pollen grain move into the pollen tube Pollen tube grows through style some and plants reaches, pollen the grains ovary. tissues You would of the recall stigma that and in carry forms In cell plants and the the a two which two generative male male shed gametes gametes cell pollen). In from are during in such shed the the the plants three at growth two,-celled-the celled. of generative Pollen pollen condition condition tube cell, in pollen (a divides the vegetative stigma tubes and. the ovary, enters the ovule through beginning the micropyle and tube then, after enters reaching the synergids through the filiform apparatus. Many studies have shown that filiform apparatus present at the micropylar recent of the synergids part guides the entry of pollen tube. All these events-from interaction pollen together in followed pollen this-pistil area deposition by referred, promotion would even interaction in to on help incompatible as the or pollen is the inhibition stigma a dynamic plant-pistil until pollinations breeder of process interaction the pollen pollen in involving manipulating, tubes to,. get As The pointed desired enter knowledge pollen the pollen hybrids out recognition ovule earlier gained-pistil-. are, You can easily study pollen germination by dusting some flowers such as pea, chickpea, Crotalaria, balsam and Vinca on a pollen glass from slide containing a drop of sugar solution (about 10 per cent). After about 15-30 minutes, observe the slide under the low power lens of the microscope. You are likely to see pollen tubes coming out of the pollen grains. As you shall learn in the chapter on plant breeding, a breeder is interested in crossing different species and often genera to combine desirable characters to produce commercially ‘ superior ‘ varieties. Artificial hybridisation is one of the major approaches of crop improvement programme. In such crossing experiments it is important to make sure that only the desired pollen grains are used for pollination and the stigma is protected from contamination (from unwanted pollen). This is achieved by emasculation and bagging techniques. If the female parent bears bisexual flowers, removal of anthers from the flower bud before the anther dehisces using a pair of forceps is necessary. This step is referred to as emasculation. Emasculated flowers have to be covered with a bag of suitable size, generally made up of butter paper, to prevent contamination of its stigma with unwanted pollen. This process is called bagging. When the stigma of bagged flower attains receptivity, mature pollen grains collected from anthers of the male parent are dusted on the stigma, and the flowers are rebagged, and the fruits allowed to develop.

If the female parent produces unisexual flowers, there is no need for emasculation. The female flower buds are bagged before the flowers open. When the stigma becomes receptive, pollination is carried out using the desired pollen and the flower rebagged.

Double fertilisation

After entering one of the synergids, the pollen tube releases the two male gametes into the cytoplasm of the synergid. One of the male gametes move towards the egg cell and fuses with its nucleus thus completing the syngamy. This results in the formation of a diploid cell, the zygote. The other male gamete moves towards the two polar nuclei located in the central cell and fuses with them to produce a triploid primary endosperm nucleus (PEN). As this involves the fusion of three haploid nuclei it is termed triple fusion. Since two types of fusions, syngamy and triple fusion take place in an embryo sac the phenomenon is termed double fertilisation, an event unique to flowering plants. The central cell after triple fusion becomes the primary endosperm cell (PEC) and develops into the endosperm while the zygote develops into an embryo.

Final Words

So this is all about all the amazing biological activities that occurred in a living being. I hope this will help you to enrich your thrust of knowledge.

Did i miss something?

While going through this article if you find something that I have missed out then please let me know through the comment section. I will update the post as early as possible.

Leave a Comment