Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Early Spring Tulips

The folks here at Eastfield College who keep our campus beautiful have given us a real Spring  treat. They planted thousands of tulip bulbs which are coming into full bloom.  (There are also lots of white daffodils.) I want to make sure everyone at the college knows where they are so they have a chance to see them.  See the campus map below, but don't wait - they won't last for long.

Red arrows indicate location of bulb beds.  

I went out to take some pictures, but also to bring a flower back to the lab for imaging.  Once I saw them I just couldn't bring myself to pick a flower, so instead I reached in and removed a single anther - the pollen-producing structure of the flower.

The anther of a tulip.  At first glance they appear black, but on the dissecting microscope you can see the multicolored pollen grains.

Here is a close-up of the pollen of the tulip.
Now lets look at pollen using the scanning electron  microscope.

This is a cross-section of the anther.  It is a little flattened by the cut with a razor blade, but you can clearly see the pollen grains on its surface. [25x]
This is a closer look at the center of the structure shown in the image above.  I don't know what the sac-like structures in the image are, but their shape was too interesting to not show. [200x]

These are some pollen grains from the tulip.  The are pretty crushed down from the high vacuum of the microscope.  Note the texture on the surface of the pollen grain.  [370x]

This pollen grain is the target for the next image.  It is about 75 microns long.  That is 75/1,000,000ths of a meter. [800x]
A close-up of the surface of a single tulip pollen grain magnified 15,000 times.  To give you some sense of scale, an E. coli bacterium is about 3 microns long.  The scale bar in this image is 2 microns.
Living in Texas, and getting a bit older, I really don't like the cold so it is really nice to see flowers in bloom.  If you work at Eastfield, you have my permission to take a short break an head outside to see the show.  Happy Spring!

All images are under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial License.  Copy, modify, and use them all you want, just please give the lab credit.


  1. Awesome! So beautiful even at such intense magnifications! I'll have to take a trip up to Eastfield to see the tulips in all their glory first hand!

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