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Gallery: Tantalizing Images of Plant Sex

Spewing Sperm Cargo

microfluidic device to study plant sex

(Image credit: Anja Geitmann, University of Montreal)

Scanning electron micrograph of the microfluidic device used to expose in vitro growing pollen tubes to narrow openings. They found that when the channels were wider, the pollen tube passed through without deforming much. But when the opening was too narrow, the tubes simply burst — spewing their precious sperm cargo.

Lily germination

Lily pollen grains

(Image credit: Anja Geitmann, University of Montreal)

Scanning electron micrograph of two germinated lily pollen grains with pollen tubes (false-colored).

Growing pollen tube

emerging pollen tube from lily pollen grain

(Image credit: Anja Geitmann, University of Montreal)

Detail of a lily pollen grain with an emerging pollen tube (scanning electron micrograph).

Persistent pollen tube

pollen tube growing through microfluidic device.

(Image credit: Anja Geitmann, University of Montreal)

Here, a pollen tube growing through a microscopic gap of the microfluidic device, helping researchers understand how a pollen tubes drills through the tissue of a female plant.

The Burst

pollen tube before and after bursting.

(Image credit: Anja Geitmann, University of Montreal)

A pollen tube before and after bursting and releasing its onboard sperm cells.

Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.