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Pollen Has to Be Durable to Do Its Job

A bee collecting pollen.
Jon Sullivan, via Wikimedia Commons
Making It Grow! Minute logo

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson extension and Making it Grow. A grain of pollen is the male gamete for plants, analogous to sperm in mammals. The outer wall of a pollen organism is called the exine and is mostly made of a compound called sporopollenin. Sporopolleniin is one of the toughest materials nature has ever produced, resistant to acids and bases, and the reason that scientists find identifiable grains of pollen hundreds of millions of years old. Wind-disseminated pollen in particular may have a harsh journey and this outer coating helps it stay viable. if it falls in a water source and floats to the bottom, it may be preserved as part of the fossil record. Scientist can make core samples and layer by layer discover what grew there for the past hundreds of thousands of years. The one area where this super tough material doesn’t persist is in desert areas – conditions are just too tough.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.