"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626


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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Pollen:Beautiful colours, fascinating form.

The honeybee I am about to paint is carrying pollen and is foraging on lavender, so it’s important  that I make sure the pollen colour is correct. Lavender pollen is a rich yellow colour, which you can see if you look closely at the flowers.

From the wonderful UK microscopy site, PS Micrographs, here is a thumbnail of a coloured electron micrograph of a lavender pollen grain Lavendula dentata.


Lavender Pollen Grain © by Cheryl Power  

When I first started my work on bees, I had a vague idea that pollen came in different shapes and colours but in fact the variety of colour and shape is really quite stunning, beautiful, both in colour and form.


Mixed Pollen: Image : http://en.wikivisual.com/index.php/Sporopollenin

You can find pollen colour guides on the internet. There is an excellent interactive chart on the Bristol Beekeepers site, http://www.bristolbeekeepers.org.uk/.   Go  there, and click on the colours to see which pollen belongs to which plant.

pollen chart 

Don’t you just love colour charts!
You can buy printed guides such as this one, by William Kirk from IBRA.


And if you are rich you can acquire one of the very desirable “The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bees” published in 1952 by beekeeper and artist Mrs Dorothy Hodges.


I have, sadly, not seen an original copy but I do know it has wonderful tipped in colour samples. She not only painted pollen colours but described the process of pollen gathering. I quote from a thesis on “Willow” written by Syliva Briercliffe and published on Dave Cushman’s Bee site here

“She (Dorothy Hodges) describes in her book the pollen packing process, of bees on poppies (papaver) - these flowers yield only pollen. The bee scrambling among the anthers gets dusted all over with pollen grains. She leaves the flower and hovers, stroking her tongue over her forelegs and moistening the pollen with regurgitated honey. Using brushes on her legs and the antennae on her head… she moulds the pollen pack around a single hair on her corbicula (pollen basket). “

Here is a reproduction of the (printed) Summer Pollen chart from a later edition of the book. 

Hodges pollen loads 

Thanks to Denver Botanic Gardens' Botanical Art blog for reproducing this.

The blue and purple pollens are astonishing, aren’t? I knew about the wonderful dark pollen of poppies, but here again from the PS Micrographs site are some thumbnails of extraordinary pollen grains. Do go and have a look at their wonderful work. Some of the bits and pieces of bugs are really amazing.

hyssop-pollen-grains--hyssopus-officinalis--80200693-t ivy-pollen--hedera-helix--sem-80016111-t
Hyssop Pollen and a very timely image of the super important Ivy Pollen.

leucospermum-pollen-grain--leucospermum-sp---80200528-t marrow-pollen-80200001a-t
Leucospermum pollen and  Marrow pollen, all images from PS Micrographs.

I am back up in chilly Lincolnshire for a while and although we have ivy here I have not seen much life on it, mostly just hoverflies.. but then it has been very very cold. But I am going out to have a look at the pollen!


Laura Bloomsbury said...

Absolutely fabulous post! So informative and beautiful in shape and colour. A whole new world from a bee's eye view


Ellen Rathbone said...

How delightful. And yet, it makes you ponder when allergies strike - no wonder your nose itches and you sneeze when its full of these spiked balls of pollen!

Karena said...

I am simply amazed and yes I love color charts!! So glad to find you!

I have a Fabulous Giveaway from Metis Linens you will love!

Art by Karena

Dan said...

I would never have imagined that pollen comes in so many shapes and colours!

Anonymous said...

A very colorful post. Thanks for the links, makes me wish there was a portable SEM attachment for my camera ;)

Carol said...

This is a fabulous post! I have often marveled at the different colors of pollen I see on bees here . . . especially the wild honey bees. Each flower having its own uniqueness. I had not thought to explore the different forms of the pollen. Great to see some here. Thanks so for sharing. Brava!! ;>)

Helen/patientgardener said...

I love pollen grains, the National Pollen Research Unit is based where I work and they do fascinating stuff. My son did a week's work experience there and had to draw what he could see through the lens

the dressmaker said...

soooo interesting and beautiful pollen photos!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

The smaller you go, the larger the surface area.

Imagine having eyes for these.

Just think of all the things we miss because we can't see them!

Don't freeze.


Crafty Green Poet said...

this is wonderful, such lovely colours and amazing electromicrographs of pollen grains!

I love watching bees carrying the pollen on their 'knees' and a colour chart would be so useful...

Flaurella said...

The pollen colors and shapes are quite fascinating! I read your blog every week but rarely comment. I understand you are back in the UK?

Laurel at eclecticala.com

Diana said...

I've always enjoyed your blog, but was delighted when Google sent me here for pollen colour.