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We all know that almost all animals are either male or female, and that it takes one of each sex to produce young. Some kinds of plants are either male or female, and it takes one of each sex to produce young plants of the same kind. There are also plants that are both male and female, at the same time! It does not take two plants of opposite sex to produce their own kind, but these plants do need a little help from nature in order to reproduce.

Two of these plants are Easter Lily and Tulip. Since it is springtime, there is probably an Easter Lily in the class- room. You can gather around it, in groups, and inspect it. If any of you think a magnifying glass would make it easier, your teacher can put one right beside the Lily.

The male organs, called stamen (pronounced "STAY-men"), are easy to see. They produce the powder (usually yellow) that is called pollen. The tops of the stamen are called anthers (pronounced "ANN-thurs). When you touch the anthers (gently), you can feel the yellow dust that is the pollen. Some of the pollen sticks to you fingers, but you can blow it away. Flowers of plants that are strictly male also have stamen and anthers.

Now, move the stamen aside with the tip of your pencil, and you can see the female organ, called pistil (pronounced "PISS-till"), which looks like a narrow vase. The very top of the pistil is called stigma (pronounced "STIG-mah"), and it feels sticky. The lower part of the pistil is its ovary, which produces plant "eggs" that really aren't eggs at all, but are like eggs because they are the beginnings of the new plant. Flowers of plants that are strictly female also have pistil and stigma.

Now that we know what the sexual parts of the bi-sexual (being of both sexes) plant is called, and what the functions of each of these parts are, how does it all work together? What does nature have to do to help the plant to reproduce?

Nature has to provide a little breeze, at the time the pollen is ripe and the stigma is sticky. The breeze blows some pollen off the anthers, and it blows onto the stigma, where it sticks. This goes down into the ovary, and starts the changes in the plant necessary to reproduce. No, No, No! We are not going to wait until next season when the blossoms open again and find a tiny Easter Lily sitting inside the blossom waiting to be planted in the soil beside its mom/dad!

Lily plants produce a bulb, which is similar to an onion, with a few small roots running out the bottom of it. When nature pollinates the lily, a tiny bulb, called "bulblet," grows off the bulb. Usually, plants that grow from bulbs are allowed to bloom, pollinate if they will, and to turn brown after the bloom has gone. Then, in late spring the bulbs are dug up from the ground and allowed to dry over the summer, where they are protected from rain, (the garage or barn), and are re-planted in late fall. If there are bulblets, they are broken off, and planted separately in the ground. Bulblets usually do not produce plants during their first year in the ground. They will be dug up again, with the bulbs of the plants that did bloom, and be dried in the summer. Next time they are planted, they will grow plants and bloom.

People can pollinate these plants (and many others) if they want to make sure that they reproduce. Commercial growers, who grow plants just to sell them, are extremely interested
in reproducing plants that are especially nice, or are different in some way, from the usual one of its kind. To cause the plants to reproduce, the grower will get a little stick, sort of like a popsicle stick, and gently scrape some pollen off the anthers, then place it carefully onto the stigma. Frequently, when growers pollinate their plants, they will put a plastic bag over the blooms that they have pollinated so that nature doesn't blow pollen from some other (maybe inferior) plant onto the stigma of the plant they want to reproduce.

Hybrids (pronounced "HIGH-brids") are produced in this way. Iris are really easy to hybridize. If you have two iris plants with different colored blooms, and you want to see what you would get by mixing them, you just put some pollen from one colored bloom onto the stigma of the other-colored bloom. A plastic bag keeps nature from blowing other pollen in there, and a plant tag (a specially-designed label which is safe to tie loosely around the stem) will help you remember which plants you "cross-bred," so you will know how you got what you have. Iris plants don't have a bulb. They have a rhizome (pronounced "RISE-ohm"), which is sort of like a root and sort of like a bulb. It has a few roots running out the bottom of it, like a bulb does, and several plants will grow from the rhizome at once. Rhizomes grow long, and produce new plants on one end, while the other end rots. When they are dug up after blooming, the rhizomes can be broken in half, which gives the plants more room and allows them to grow bigger. The new end of the rhizome will not produce a plant the first year. If you pollinate an iris, you have to wait two years before you know what color (or colors) the new bloom will be. That is a good reason to be certain that the hybridized plants have tags.

Plants do reproduce their own kind, whether they grow from bulbs, rhizomes, seeds, root-stock, or spores. The fact that people can pollinate and make hybrids does not mean that we could put marigold pollen onto a daisy and get a daisygold!

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