What We Can Learn from Fossil Tree Pollen

Art Bernstein, MS (Gold Hill, OR), writer and naturalist. “Global weather and fossil tree pollen.”

Art filled in for a scheduled guest who cancelled due to a family emergency. Relating to the previous guest, Sharon asked if there are windborne factors important to forestry. Art noted that there are many, such as the spread of forest fires, but zeroed in on the importance of wind and atmosphere in pollination.

Pollen is a one-to-three celled entity that contain male genetic material. It is produced by all coniferous and flowering plants and is necessary to the production of seeds and reproduction. The pollen lands on unfertilized seeds of the same species, resulting in fertilized seeds and fruit.

Most flowers are bee pollinated but most trees are wind pollinated. Tree pollen is often produced in long, dangling “anthers” that catch the wind high up on the tree.

No two species have identical pollen and scientists have learned to identify the pollen species through a microscope. Also, pollen can persist in soil, sediments and rock for millions of years. The study of fossil pollen in rock and soil enables scientists to discover much about ancient pattern of forestation and component tree species going millions of years.

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