The large, fragrant, white trumpet-shaped blooms of the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) are common decorative touches around Easter time. Also called trumpet lilies, they thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant hardiness zones 4 to 8. In order to plant the right companions or attract the right insects to carry out the pollination cycle, you may wonder how an Easter lily flower pollinates. However, the Easter lily is among the group of "perfect flowers" that self-pollinate.
1. Perfect Flowers
As perfect flowers, Easter lilies contain the male stamens that produce pollen and the female reproductive pistils. The stamens are made of the anthers, which serve as the pollen factory, and filaments that provide support. When the pollen lands on the stigma and grows on a tube through the style, the pollen nucleus carries the genetic code back through the tube to the ovary to combine with the ovule's female egg cell. The ovary supports the seed embryo so that it can develop into the seed endosperm and seed coat.
Since Easter lilies carry both the male and female reproductive structures, they are able to self-pollinate. This means they can reproduce without outside assistance from wind, animals or insects. The pollen from the anther transfers to the stamen as they mature simultaneously. This starts the reproductive cycle of the Easter lily.
Not all perfect flowers can self-pollinate as the Easter lily does because the pollen tube cannot grow through the style. When this happens, horticulturalists say the flower is "self-incompatible." In order for self-pollination to work, the stamen, style and flowering must mature in sync with one another. In addition, the proteins on the stigma, style and pollen must be compatible. If these conditions are met, then your Easter lily is self-compatible and should successfully self-pollinate.
Although Easter lilies' perfect blooms will usually self-pollinate, insects can still cross-pollinate them. In fact, if for any reason, the pollen tube cannot grow through the style and creates a self-incompatible situation, the only way to coax your Easter lily into producing seed is to cross-pollinate by insect. Cross-pollination can be positive when it produces a lily more adapted to its environment. Insect pollination can also augment the self-pollination for stronger offspring.
- McDaniel College: Pollination
- Western Kentucky University Biology Department: Bio 113 - Plants
- University of Cincinnati Clermont College: Angiosperms
- North Dakota State University: Methods of Lily Propagation
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary: Flowering Principles: Plants with Perfect Flowers
- Missouri Botanical Library: Lilium longiflorum
- University of Minnesota Extension: The Easter Lily in North America
- University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Plants and Pollination
- University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science: Easter Lilies
- Penn State Extension College of Agricultural Sciences: The Easter Lily
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