Anther color v. pollen color

What do I do if anther color & pollen color don’t match?


Red anther walls containing orange pollen. Photo by James Thomas.

Good observation! The color of the anther walls in American trout lily (Erythronium americanum) doesn’t always match the color of the pollen grains contained within the anthers. Yellow anthers always contain yellow pollen. Red-orange anthers, however, sometimes contain pollen that is paler than the anther walls (see photo at right by James Thomas).  The pollen within red-orange anther walls is even occasionally yellow!

When submitting data to the Trout Lily Project, please report on the color of anther walls, not pollen. We focus on anthers because (1) anther walls are more readily visible from a distance, and (2) anther walls are visible at all stages of floral development (pollen grains are not).

Added side-note: this photo also illustrates a neat fact about trout lily floral biology. Three of the anthers dehisce (reveal their pollen) on the first day of flower opening, while the other three wait until the second day.  Presumably, this staggered dehiscence reduces the probability that all of the flower’s pollen will be removed in a single pollinator visit, and thereby helps to spread the pollen out to as many recipient flowers as possible.

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