Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Pollination often occurs within a species. When pollination occurs between species it can produce hybrid offspring in nature and in plant breeding work.
In angiosperms, after the pollen grain (gametophyte) has landed on the stigma, where it germinates and develops a pollen tube which grows down the style until it reaches an ovary. Its two gametes travel down the tube to where the gametophyte(s) containing the female gametes are held within the carpel. After entering an ovum cell through the micropyle, one male nucleus fuses with the polar bodies to produce the endosperm tissues, while the other fuses with the ovule to produce the embryo. Hence the term: “double fertilization”. This process would result in the production of a seed made of both nutritious tissues and embryo.
In gymnosperms, the ovule is not contained in a carpel, but exposed on the surface of a dedicated support organ, such as the scale of a cone, so that the penetration of carpel tissue is unnecessary. Details of the process vary according to the division of gymnosperms in question. Two main modes of fertilization are found in gymnosperms. Cycads and Ginkgo have motile sperm that swim directly to the egg inside the ovule, whereas conifers and gnetophytes have sperm that are unable to swim but are conveyed to the egg along a pollen tube.
The study of pollination spans many disciplines, such as botany, horticulture, entomology, and ecology. The pollination process as an interaction between flower and pollen vector was first addressed in the 18th century by Christian Konrad Sprengel. It is important in horticulture and agriculture, because fruiting is dependent on fertilization: the result of pollination. The study of pollination by insects is known as anthecology.