Facts and Links

(for fun ...)

Origin of the word "Pollen"

According to the Online dictionary of etymology and Webster the word pollen as botanical term for fertilization elements in flowers was introduced in 1751 by Linnæus (new Latin pollin, pollen). Current for today is the term "palynology" for the science to study fossile pollen grains and spores (Source: van Dale). word pollen
The word "pollen" seems to originate from that for dust particles or flour, which also is indicated by the Dutch and German words "stuifmeel" and "Staubmehl" (gushing flour). The far origin of "Pollen" seems to be seeked in the Sanskrite word "palalam", which means grounded seeds. Affiliation can be found with the Old-Greek words "pale", "palunein" en "poltos": "pale" that means dust, "palunein" that means the action of dispersing flower above offer meat, and "poltos" that stays for pudder or porridge. In the Latin one finds back the word "pulvis" (genetivus "pulveris") in the significance of dust, in English the verb "pulverize" and in German "Pulver" for pudder. "Puls" is also a name indicating the gruel of cereals that formed the basic food for the Romans. Nowadays one recognizes spores of this image in the Italian "polenta", which indicates a dish made of corn grits. A connection has been made between the idea of pollen as dust particles and the Russian "pepel" which means ashes. So far for alittle bit of etymology with a wink; for more serious data we refer to scietific articles, for example like page 28 of the Indogermans dictionary.

Finally, like the Dutch word "stuifmeel" the scientific term "pollen" has no plural form; thus one can speak about various types of pollen, but not about pollens. When refering to single grains the word combination pollen grain or pollen grains is appropriate, both in singular and plural. When pollen grains germinate, they begin to develop a "pollen tube".

In order to have a chance to achieve fertilization airborne pollen must be produced in large quantities. Therefore wind pollinated plants not only make a lotof pollen but they allso flower at the same time during a short period. One single inflorescence of Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) can produce moore than 500 million pollen grains in a few days! A plantation of Norway Spruce (Picea abies) produces per hectare 7.5 ton pollen. In spring, usually in the first two weeks of May, a layer of yellow dust can be seen on hte soil (en on the water!). One often speaks about "desert sand" or "Sahara sand".This may be the fact, but mostly the substance is in reality in May pollen of Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). One can easily check this with a microscope. Also in other seasons this can be observed: any idea about which plants this applies?

Pollen as nutrition

Although airborne pollen is dispersed by the wind, it is sometimes collected by insects. In early spring bees sometimes collect pollen of the Alder and Hazel, because no other food is available. In catlings of Willows many pollen-collecting insects can be found, in particular Syrphid flies, which beside the pollen also collect the honey. Pollination in Linden is mainly achieved by wind, but bees, and moreover bumblebees can also contribute to pollination. Linden blossom is famous for its nice smell and also Linden honey is much appreciated. However, Linden pollen is not good to bumblebees: under the trees often numerous dead bumblebees can be found. Stanley and Linskens reported in their book the presence of toxic saponins in pollen of this this plant genus. However, toxic pollen is an exception. In general pollen is a healthy product with a high nutritional value (in proteins, minerals and spore elements) which can be safely consumed by insects and birds,but also by man. Pollen is so rich that in principles it contains all substances which a human needs.

Pollen as object of art

Keramical pollen: ceramist Birgit Vogels's graduation work on keramical techniques Ceramic pollen Birgit Vogels was inspired by scanning electron microscopy views of pollen grains from pollennieuws and the pollen morphology page of this site.
For more information on the work of Birgit Vogels and exhibitions, surf to her website: birgitvogels.nl.


Research on pollen

  • IASPRR International Association of Sexual Plant Reproduction Research

    References on pollen biology, hay fever and other topics related to pollen

  • Derksen, J., van Wissen, H. en Marijnissen, J. 2007. Pollen en hooikoorts. Tirion Uitgevers. p. 126.
  • Stanley, R. G., and Linskens, H. F.. 1974. Pollen, Biology, Biochemistry, Management, Springer Verlag, Berlin. p. 307.
  • Punta, W., Hoen, P.P., Blackmore, S., Nilsson, S., and Le Thomas, A. 2007. Glossary of pollen and spore terminology. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 143: 1-81.
  • Ciampolini, F., and Cresti, M. 1981. Atlante dei principali pollini allergenici presenti in Italia. Ed. Università di Siena.
  • Bucher, E., and Kofler, V. Online Pollen atlas
  • Dafni, A., Hesse, M., and Pacini, E. 2000. Pollen and Pollination. Springer. 336 pp.
  • Derksen, J.W.M., Gerth van Wijk, R. en Smithuis, L.O.M.J. 2010. Het allergieboek. BSL.

    Sites on Hay fever, Pollen counts and Hay fever forecast

  • The Elkerliek Hospital in Helmond
  • Pollennieuws (Video presentation in Dutch on pollen plants)
  • Pollen site LUMC (Leids University Medical Centre)
  • Hooikoorts info (by practitioners, in Dutch, under the index Huidziekten a-z at Hooikoorts)
  • Natuurkalender
  • Teletekst (Hay fever: page 709)
  • KNMI (Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut)
  • Weeronline (Prognosis hay fever thead in various countries, i.e. the Netherlands and Belgium)
  • airallergy.be (Pollen forecast Belgium)
  • Pollenflug.de (Pollen forecast Germany)
  • Pollen.fr (Pollen forecast France)
  • BBC (Pollen forecast great-Britain)
  • Polleninfo.org (Pollen forecast whole Europe + much extra information)
  • HON (Health on the Net Allergy: Pollen forecast worldwide)
  • Hooikoorts.com (commercial site by Prevalin)
  • alk-abello.com (commercial site by Alk-Abello)
  • Hooikoortsbericht.nl (commercial site by Alerfre)
  • Allergie startpagina
  • Astmafonds
  • National Allergy site (in Dutch)
  • Gezondheid.be (in Dutch)
  • Advises on pollinosis (in Dutch)
  • EAACI (European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology)
  • EFA (European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations)
  • NPARU (National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit - UK)
  • birgitvogels.nl (Ceramical pollen)

    Webpages and photographs:Jan Derksen and Elisabeth Pierson
    Web development: Remco Aalbers
  • http://www.vcbio.science.ru.nl/en/virtuallessons/pollenfacts/print/

    last modified: 25 Nov 2013