Humans and other animals reproduce to keep their population alive, but plants need to reproduce as well. When people talk about the 'birds and the bees', they are referring to the process of plant reproduction called pollination. Flowering plants make copies of themselves by making seeds. The seed is the embryo of the plant. Inside the seed is everything that is needed to make a new plant.
Only flowers from the same species of a plant can produce seeds. The seeds are produced within certain parts of a flower through pollination and fertilization. Sometimes people confuse the two terms. Pollination is the process that leads to fertilization. Fertilization occurs when the egg cells (female) of a flowering plant receive the pollen (male) from another flower.
Pollination and fertilization are simple processes that take place wherever flowering plants exist. Flowering plants include the flowers seen in gardens or in front of homes, the dandelions in the grass, and on trees that produce fruit. In each of these plants, seeds are produced through the process of pollination and then fertilization.
Just like animals, plants have reproductive organs. Flowers are the reproductive organs of the flowering plant. Since plants cannot move from one place to another place, they must rely on the movement of bees, butterflies, birds, and other methods of reproduction. The steps of the pollination process begin when pollen, the male sex cells of a plant, is discharged from the male part of a flower, the stamen. It is a fine, yellow, powdery substance. When it is in the air, it can cause allergic reactions for many people.
Though flowers are pretty and decorate people's homes and gardens, the colorful petals of flowers and the scent of the nectar attract insects such as bees and butterflies (called pollinators) to the flower. Next, the bees or other insects accidentally land on the male part of the flower called the stamen. While on the stamen, tiny grains of pollen from the anthers of the flower stick to the insect's bodies. The insect's purpose is to feed on the nectar of the flower.
The insect then travels to another flower of the same species and accidentally lands on the stigma, located on top of the pistil (the female part of the flower) where the pollen is released. The ovules (eggs) in the ovary, at the bottom of the style, wait to be fertilized by the pollen as it travels downward through the style to the ovary. Finally, it is in the ovary where fertilization takes place and a new seed is produced.
Besides bees and other insects, pollinators may include birds, bats, ants and the wind. Pollination occurs naturally, and it is important to the lifecycle of plants. There are two types of pollination, both result in the fertilization of the ovary. Cross-pollination takes place as explained above when a pollinator moves pollen from one flower to another flower, and self-pollination takes place when pollen is transferred from the stamen of a flower to the same flower's pistil.
In summary, there cannot be plant reproduction without pollination and fertilization, with the help of the bees, butterflies, other insects, and the wind.
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