Flowers: The Next Generation
“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
The reproductive cycle of a flowering plant is so easy to understand, and yet exists in so many varieties. The principle process for such plant reproduction is pollination.
The male organs of the flower, or anthers, produce pollen cells, or grains. These have to find their way to the female stamen, and thence into the ovary, which contains the ovule cells.
Generally speaking, pollen does not pollinate the ovules in its own flower. So the plant has to have a strategy to get pollen from one flower to the ovary of another flower of the same species. To do this, it employs go-between pollinators.
Have you ever thought why flower petals are so pretty? It is because most plants are attempting to attract insects to act as pollinators. But the insect has to need something that the flower provides. So many flowers produce nectar – a sweet liquid that is desirable for many insects, especially bees and butterflies. Visiting insects will brush pollen off the anthers, and, if they already have pollen from another flower, they might brush that pollen on to the flower’s stamen. But how do the insects know the nectar is there? By the bright petals that the flower produces!
But these features could not evolve by chance. Brightly colored petals deprive a plant of energy. What would be the advantage of that if there were no pollinators? As we think about pollination – especially that of the more unusual plants – we realize that this is a process designed by God.
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