Colorful zombies are rising from the ground, and they’re hungry for sunlight.
The fundamental aspects of nature are often unnoticeable. Subatomic particles, molecules, microbes, viruses, bacteria…the tiny stuff is everywhere, and we sure as shit can’t exist without them. Technology allows us to glimpse into the microcosm, but our squishy eyeballs were evolutionarily designed to watch television. Just kidding. Kind of.
The mundane properties of our busy lives are distracting. No one wants to be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. Big stuff matters, of course. Our early ancestors couldn’t sit around and worry about the intricacies of nature….because nature was trying to kill them.
We no longer have to worry about being jacked by an ice age predator, so now we watch television, which may or may not feature a gazelle being eviscerated by a lion. Depends on what you watch, right? Some people like to watch fictional vampires bite each other’s pale neck, but that’s a different problem.
Or is it?
…we’re all distracted by something. It doesn’t matter what we watch. Or what we do. We’re plugged into reality and we deemed certain things to be important. We choose our own distractions.
Flowers are often ignored. We take their existence for granted. Flowers have been apart of the backdrop of your life, even if you never noticed. Just like mailboxes, lampposts, or electrical wires—boring objects blend into the fabric of our existence as if they were just a cheap movie prop.
Let’s strain our squishy eyes and examine a little something that exists on the edge of our visual perception: pollen.
Can you find the pollen grain? It’s balanced somewhere on the purple flower petal. That tiny thing helps provoke an allergic reaction, and it also has the magic ability to fertilize a flower. We don’t often think of flowers as being sexual, but they’re exposing their goods and hoping to get some action. Insects and bees chow down on pollen. They love the tiny stuff and couldn’t thrive without pollen. And neither could we. Sort of.
If you think about it…pollen is not just a bundle of genetic material—it’s also bee candy.
Flowers don’t just give away their tasty goods. They expect a little something in return.
A bumbling bee carries pollen far, far away, and flowers love that. Flowers don’t really want to breed with themselves (more on that later), so they prefer their bee candy to be transported to a different flower. The further, the better. Wind and other insects also participate in the pollination orgy. Gotta put on your best color, baby.
Pollen grains stick to each other and also the flower’s stamen. Have you ever seen sugar buttons? The scrumptious candy was scientifically engineered to entice your senses, and just like pollen, sugar buttons are also stuck to a piece of paper…instead of a stamen. A flower needs a way to expose its goods, right? Exactly. Pollen was also evolutionary engineered to attract bees and other insects. Flowers can’t ask each other out. Arthropods do their dirty work.
Wanna take a closer look? The short film explores the nature of a typical spring flower. You’ll also see more pollen. Lucky you. Some of the recorded footage was magnified 10x more than the photographs featured in this article. If you’re brave, activate the ‘HD button’. Hell yeah.
A single pollen grain is difficult to observe or photograph. Sure, sure—it’s easy to see a bunch of pollen, but a single granule won’t cause a blip on our visual perception radar. Reversed-coupled optics was used to hunt down specific pollen granules. It was kind of like using a low power microscope…a really, really low power microscope. The magnification is still respectable, though. The exact macro ratio is currently unknown. Unfortunately.
Did you notice that each pollen grain appears to be the same size? There could be slight differences, but it’s too subtle to observe. I tried to find larger or smaller pollen granules and failed. Every type of flower produces a unique type of pollen. Larger flowers may produce larger pollen grains, or perhaps the size of pollen is purely fundamental and not correlated with specific flower species.
Flowers are equipped with specialized parts which produce and receive pollen (stamen, pistil…).
To put it politely—a flower can screw itself. Pollen, which is formed somewhere on the stamen (male part), may or may not come in contact with its own pistil (female part). Flowers prefer cross-pollination, and no one blames them. Confused? So am I. Cross-pollination occurs when a foreign pollen grain is introduced to a particular flower, but the pollen grain has to be from the same species.
Take a look at the fancy diagram below this paragraph, and just to make things slightly more confusing: the stamen and pistil also have separate parts. Keep that in mind.
Cross-pollinated plants are more resilient, but flowers don’t get up close and personal with everyone. Flowers only accept pollen from the same species. Crocus, for example, can’t intermingle with a tiger lily. Flowers are not too progressive—even though they had 130 million damn years to figure out how to get along with each other. If there’s a lesson to be learned, well…I’ll let you decide.
Here’s an interesting thought: valiant knights often give a bouquet of flowers to a potential mate. They’re essentially trying to give away their pollen. Think about it.
So there you have it.
We took a closer look at some important tiny stuff, and we also examined subtle complexities of nature. Keep your eyes open—perhaps you’ll see something.
Camera: Canon 70D
Reversed-coupled lenses: Canon 100mm Macro lens + Canon 50mm Macro lens (secondary lens)
Flower featured in the article: Crocus