When springtime comes around, bees get busy and pollen fills the air. For people who suffer from allergies, pollen seems to be a curse rather than a blessing. Some plants produce astronomical quantities of pollen. Just one birch catkin, for example, may release over five million grains of pollen, and a typical birch tree will likely have several thousand catkins. For people who suffer from hay fever, this proliferation of pollen results in great discomfort.
But our lives depend on this unique dust. Pollen consists of tiny grains that are produced in the male organs of flowering and cone-bearing plants. So, plants produce pollen in order to reproduce. The female organ of a flower (the pistil) needs pollen from the male organ (the stamen) in order to be fertilized and produce fruit. Pollen grains are tiny and we can hardly see them with the unaided eye. However, under a microscope we can see that both the size and the shape are unique to each particular species. The scientists often study the pollen grains to identify plants that people cultivated centuries ago.