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What is a Stamen?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A stamen is part of the reproductive system of a flower. Stamens are usually referred to as the male parts of the flower, because they generate pollen which is used to fertilize the pistils, commonly known as the female parts, of other flowers. Once fertilized, the pistil will develop a fruit which has the potential to develop into a new plant. Many people are familiar with stamens and the pollen they carry because they tend to be prominent structures in a flower, as the flower wants to ensure that its pollen will spread as much as possible, thereby perpetuating its genetic material and the survival of the species as a whole.

When one looks at a flower, the stamens are located in the middle, between the petals. In most cases, the stamens surround the pistil of the flower, and the plant uses a variety of techniques to prevent self-pollination, in which its own pollen fertilizes the pistil. Some plants produce stamens and pistils on different flowers, or different plants, to make self-fertilization even less likely.

Each stamen has two parts: the anther and the filament. The anther is a small sac which holds the pollen, while the filament is a thread which holds the anther up. Anthers typically have two lobes, and they can be quite large. The filaments vary in length, a technique used to deal with self-fertilization issues. Some plants have especially long or short filaments to prevent contact between the pistil and the stamen. Others may mature their pistils and stamens at different times.

In some cases, an area known as a nectary can be found at the base of the stamen. This area includes a sweet liquid which is designed as an incentive and a reward to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds. These animals alight on the flower to access the nectar, and collect pollen along the way, transferring that pollen to other plants when they access their nectaries.

The number of stamens in a flower can vary. Sometimes, a flower has as many stamens as it has petals, while others may generate many more. Botanists may sometimes classify and distinguish between different groups of flowers on the basis of how many stamens they have, since stamens are easy to identify and count. Some people have noted that stamens are particularly prominent in some types of flowers, and brushing up against the stamen may result in a stain from the pollen; these plants may have their stamens clipped when their flowers are cut for sale.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 30, 2012

@orangey03 – The lily stamen, stigma, and pistil could all be dangerous to your neighbor's cats. My aunt's cat simply brushed up against the stamens, and she got pollen on her fur, which she later licked off.

Since cats are always cleaning themselves with their tongues, anything toxic that their fur comes in contact with is dangerous. My aunt's cat started vomiting shortly after cleaning off the pollen, and she started acting really tired.

My aunt mentioned the lily pollen to the vet, who then treated her for poisoning. Luckily, she had gotten the cat there quickly enough for her to be saved. A cat's kidneys can start to fail within 24 hours of contact with lily pollen.

By orangey03 — On Jun 29, 2012

Has anyone here ever heard of lily stamens being poisonous to cats? I have a daylily garden in my backyard, and my new neighbors have several outdoor cats. I'm a little worried about them coming over, because I've always heard that lilies are bad for cats, and these are kittens, so they are naturally curious.

Would a cat have to eat a lily stamen in order to become ill, or would just brushing up against it make it sick? I'm a dog owner, and I always check with my vet before planting anything new to make sure that it won't be toxic to my dog, but I'm not that familiar with what is bad for cats. I just remember seeing lilies on a list of toxic plants for cats but not for dogs.

By kylee07drg — On Jun 29, 2012
Interesting! I didn't know that the bees I've often seen landing on flowers were actually after something at the base of the stamen. I always just thought they were there to grab the pollen.

It sounds to me like gathering pollen is just a consequence of going after the nectar. They can't help but press up against the pollen, which is so powdery that it clings to whatever it touches. I know that in spring, it covers everything from cars to dog fur, and even if you wash your car, it will become coated in pollen again within a day or two.

The only kind of flowers I have in my yard are tulips, and their stamens are very apparent. They have a pistil with a big stigma on top, and it is surrounded by several stamen.

You can only see them after the flower opens up, and when you look down inside the cup that the petals create, the only other thing you will see is a bee. I have to be careful when leaning down to sniff them, because the bees visit the stamens frequently.

By shell4life — On Jun 28, 2012

I find it fascinating how something as small and lovely as a flower can have such a complicated reproductive system. I never really think about the purpose of the parts of the flower while I'm admiring one, but reading this reminds me that every little section of a flower has its purpose.

I became a flower gardening enthusiast six years ago, and since then, I have really taken the time to get to know my plants. I have taken photos and spent time just staring down into the center of the blooms and noticing that there really is a lot going on in there.

From a distance, all you see may be the brightly colored petals, but once you take a good look at a flower growing outside, you really gain a new appreciation for it. There is so much more there than can be observed with a passing glance.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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