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Wednesday word file: pollinia

While most flowers have dust-like pollen, some have a sticky mass of pollen called a pollinium. Many of the orchids have these pollen masses in pairs, called pollinia. The pollinia are attached to stalks that have a sticky pad on the other end. When a foraging insect such as a bee comes into contact with the pollinia, they detach from the flower and the pad sticks onto the insect’s head. The glue is strong enough to hold onto the insect during flight. When the insect investigates another orchid, the mass of pollen is transferred to the stigma and the insect is freed of its load.

Orchid showing pollinia still attached to the flower. Photo by BerndH.

Bee with pollinia stuck to its head. Photo by Jim Ford.

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