Wind and Water Pollination

Many flowers are pollinated without the aid of animals (insect, bird, or mammal). Here are a few examples.

Wind Pollination

Ponderosa pine branch tip showing needles and young cones.

Grass flower

Most conifers and about 12% of the world’s flowering plants are wind-pollinated. They include grasses and their cultivated cousins, the cereal crops; many trees; the infamous allergenic ragweeds; and others. All release billions of pollen grains into the air so that a lucky few will hit their targets.

Pollen cloud rising from a Engelmann spruce forest.
Clouds of pollen rise above an Engelmann spruce forest. Photo by Al Schneider.

Wind-pollinated flowers are typically:

  • No bright colors, special odors, or nectar
  • Small
  • Most have no petals
  • Stamens and stigmas exposed to air currents
  • Large amount of pollen
  • Pollen smooth, light, easily airborne
  • Stigma feathery to catch pollen from wind
  • May have staminate and pistillate flowers, may be monoecious or dioecious
  • Usually single-seeded fruits, such as oak, grass, birch, poplar, hazel, dock, cat-tail, plantain, and papyrus

Water Pollination

Pollen can also float on the water’s surface drifting until it contacts flowers. This is called surface hydrophily and is relatively rare. This water-aided pollination occurs in waterweeds and pondweeds. In a very few cases, pollen travels underwater.

Many of the water-pollinated plants have become invasive throughout the United States. To learn more, visit these invasive species websites: