Pollen Nerds

I realize that I might be a little late in the season to talk about spring, seeing how the season is coming to an end as I am currently sweating it out in the Maryland heat. I just recently moved from Penn State to Maryland to do some work with the USDA for the summer—and let me tell you, it is hot! It’s about a ten degree temperature change between the two locations, and with the humidity factored in it is surely going to take some getting used to.

Not only does this late May heat wave have me reminiscing about fresh spring days, but also does the thought of the beautiful scenery

Rosaceae Prunus

Cherry Blossoms. Source unknown.

around the Penn State campus in the springtime. One of my favorite visions walking to class was marveling at the loveliness of the pink cherry blossoms blooming on many of the trees on campus. One day, a coworker suggested I take a pollen sample from a cherry blossom tree as an addition to my newly forming pollen reference collection. After I tried inconspicuously (I am not sure how well that worked, as I got some strange stares) to pick a blossom from the tree I took it back to the lab and was able to gather enough pollen to make a slide.

Below are three images of Cherry blossom pollen I collected:

Cherry Blossom Pollen

Cherry Blossom Pollen

Cherry Blossom Pollen

On the Penn State University Park campus there are seven species of Cherry Blossom trees. I have to be honest in my admission that I am not fully sure of the variety I picked. I would have to go back to the exact tree I picked the blossom from to find out that information. Seeing as how I am no longer at Penn State this isn’t really possible. Therefore, because pollen of the Rosaceae (Rose) family, especially those within the same genus, is very similar to one another, I can only narrow down the pollen to family and genus, but not species. The correct way of labeling the pollen would be Rosaceae, Prunus and then followed by the species name.

As I was looking at the pollen under the scope, I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that I had just picked the first pant to start my very own pollen reference collection. Mental note: one plant sample down and identified, millions to collect. OK, yes, I do realize that makes me sound like a huge nerd. I don’t know many who go around looking at plants and taking blossoms not for a nice floral display, but rather to identify the pollen. Really cool, I know. “Hey guys! C’mon let’s go out and collect plant samples so we can spend hours under a microscope and identify the plants!!! Any takers…?” Surprise, surprise, looks like this girl is a pollen nerd all on her own. Oh well, looks like I will continue to get strange stares like, “who’s that chick running around all excited grabbing things off the plants? Weirdo…”


Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.


11 Responses to “Pollen Nerds”

  1. Terry in Indiana


    I just stumbled onto your posting about collecting pollen samples. Could you enlighten me as to the amount of
    magnification and resolution that is required to get the
    quality of images you attained with your cherry blossom
    pollen shot?

    -=- terry -=-

  2. Jennie Stitzinger

    Hi Terry,

    I viewed pollen at 40x on a Zeiss Axio Imager M1 scope. Hope this helps!

  3. Oliver

    Hey! This is a really cool website. Thanks so much for posting this, I myself own three beehives. It’s really interesting to try and identify all the different types of pollen in the combs. A very interesting one that I think you would enjoy is pollen from teh Skunk Cabbage plant.