The structural variation of pollinia and pollinaria in Orchidaceae is discussed. Pollinia and pollinaria are restricted to two (of the five) orchid subfamilies: Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae. The attributes of pollinia and pollinaria of these subfamilies are commented on and discussed. Pollinia and pollinaria also occur in the plant family Apocynaceae, in the subfamilies Asclepiadoideae and Periplocoideae, but these are structurally different from those found in the family Orchidaceae. A number of morphological features of orchid pollinaria are informative taxonomically and ecologically. These features are briefly discussed and examples are given. The recent description of the first unequivocal fossil orchid (Meliorchis caribea; Orchidoideae: Goodyerinae) from a pollinarium attached to an insect pollinator is briefly discussed. This example is used to illustrate the use of informative morphological and palynological characters. A fascinating new perspective, the possibility of species identification using DNA sequencing from pollinia or pollinaria attached to pollinators, is also discussed. Suggestions and future avenues of research focusing on orchid pollination are given.
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