The Joys of Pollination


Have you ever wondered where fruits and vegetables come from? Breaking down the biology of pollination.

At the Master Gardener Spring Fling event last month, the speakers talked a great deal about pollinators. Many of the questions from the audience were centered around the biology of pollination. Have you ever wondered where fruits and vegetables come from?  Let us see if I can explain. 

Fruit or vegetable production starts when the plant produces flowers.  Male flowers have male reproductive parts and they produce pollen.  Female flowers have ovaries that become fruit or vegetables once they are fertilized.  Most vegetables have “perfect” flowers, which contain both male and female parts within a single flower.  Examples of these vegetables include peppers and tomatoes. 

It is critical that the male pollen reach the female eggs for fruits and vegetables to be produced.  The transfer of male pollen to the female eggs is called pollination.  Pollination occurs in a variety of ways.  

The wind can transport pollen to female flowers while other plants depend on outside pollinators such as insects to assist in the delivery of pollen to the female flower.  The most well-known pollinator is the honeybee.  When a bee is foraging inside a male flower, pollen clings to the bee’s body.  When the bee alights upon a female flower, the pollen brushes off onto the pistil. The pistil is where the ovaries are housed. Once fertilized, the ovaries mature into fruit. 

In order to protect the pollinators in your landscape, here are a few things to remember: 

  • If you must spray pesticide, make sure it is a low impact product (for example, insecticidal soap). 
  • Apply pesticides first thing in the morning or later in the evening when pollinators are not active. 
  • Do not spray plants during bloom. 
  • Please read and follow the label directions. 

If you have questions about pollination or using low impact pesticides, please give me call at 901-752-1207.  Let’s do all we can to protect our pollinators! 

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Christopher Cooper

Dr. Chris Cooper is the County Director of UT-TSU Extension Shelby County Office.

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