The anther is the part of a flowering plant that is responsible for the production of pollen, which plays a key part in plant reproduction. It is a part of the stamen, the male component of the reproduction system of a flower. The stamen is made up of two parts: the filament and the anther; the filament holds and positions the anther. When the anther opens, it releases pollen which is caught by wind or mobile organisms and transported to other plants, which it pollinates, allowing for plant reproduction. Flowing plants tend to have several complete stamens; six is the most common number of stamens contained in a normal flower.
Pollen is a fine, powder-like substance that is produced by the anthers for the purpose of reproduction. Individual grains of pollen have a hard outer shell that protects the interior. A grain of pollen contains microgametophytes that produce male gametes, which are essentially the flowering plant's sperm cells. A grain of pollen is moved by wind, water, or some organism until it is lost or it comes into contact with the pistil, the female part of another flower. Upon coming into contact with the pistil, the pollen forms a tube down which it sends sperm, which eventually come into contact with the ovule of the plant's ovary.
Pollen is produced in the microsporangium, which exist inside of the anthers in flowering plants. The male cone is a similar structure that serves a similar function in cone-bearing or coniferous plants. A plant's anthers protect pollen and the important genetic information that it contains while the pollen is vulnerable during its production.
There are a few different ways in which the anther may be attached to the filament to make up a complete stamen. The particular kind of connection determines exactly how the pollen is released into the air. Basifixed attachment describes an arrangement in which the filament is attached to the anther at one of the ends. The anther then opens along its length to release the pollen stored within. In versatile attachment, on the other hand, the filament it attached to the middle of the anther and the pollen is released through pores on the anther's surface.
Once a plant's anthers have released pollen either through pores or by splitting down the middle, the pollen may reach its destination through several methods. Wind is likely the most common; pollen is very light and is easily carried long distance by wind. Insects, such as bees, attracted by the bright colors of flowers, also play an important role in the pollination process.