Osborn unravels the mysteries of pollen

“Pollen is more than something to sneeze at,” was the sentiment on Wednesday, Feb. 21, when Jeffrey Osborn gave students and faculty alike a presentation on pollen.

Osborn is dean of the School of Science at the College. He studied and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in botany at Texas State University, before completing his doctorate studies in plant biology at Ohio State University. His experience in field research includes such locales as Antarctica, Alberta, British Columbia, Florida and various other U.S. states. He also worked at the palynological laboratory at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Osborn’s discussion covered many of the complex biological processes involved in the cycle of pollen and some of its more pragmatic uses.

For example, he discussed the bee pollen pills that are on the market at health stores around the country. He and a group of his students performed a study to find out if there was actual bee pollen in the pills, and the results turned out positive.

He also discussed the use of pollen in make-up products and its role in certain tribal rituals, namely an Apache ritual that involves pouring pollen powder over a young boy as a symbol of his maturation into manhood.

There are “a broad range of pollen types out there,” Osborn said, and the rest of his discussion focused on these types and the processes they go through.

He began by introducing the life cycle of the plant, using the fern as his example. He then went on to discuss the main processes in the pollen cycle that his studies have focused on. These processes include the morphology, or structure, of the individual cells in pollen, the development of the pollen and the processes of pollination. He examined the different apertures present on different types of pollen cells, which are a key factor in how the cells are transported. This transportation is typically done via wind or water.

Osborn’s presentation included many other detailed explanations of the processes and compositional structures of the pollen. He concluded by saying that pollen is largely to credit for “the beauty of plants.”