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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Love in the time of pollen

by Brianna Barbu
April 26, 2023

A scanning electron microscope image of the pollen sacs on a flower.
Credit: Chimara Stancill

Those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies might not think the words “pollen” and “heart” belong together. But the close-up view that Chimara Stancill captured of the pollen-production center in a hummingbird sage flower (Salvia spathacea) agrees to disagree. Stancill is a scientist with the contract research firm PPD, working at Genentech on solid-state characterization of small-molecule pharmaceuticals. In her downtime, she sometimes uses her lab’s scanning electron microscope to look at objects for fun. She decided to look at a hummingbird sage flower, she says, because she walks by them often on Genentech’s campus and she became curious about what one would look like under the microscope. This image shows the flower’s pollen-bearing structure, or anther, at 200x magnification. Stancill says she was initially unsure exactly what the heart-shaped structure was—so like a good scientist, she searched the literature to understand it better. After reading up on it, she says, she believes the heart is part of the plant’s pollen sac.

A photo of a hummingbird sage flower.
Credit: Shutterstock
Hummingbird sage flower

Submitted by Chimara Stancill

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