Ask Difference

Self-Pollination vs. Cross-Pollination — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on January 8, 2024
Self-pollination occurs when a flower's own pollen fertilizes its ovules, while cross-pollination involves transfer of pollen from one flower to another.
Self-Pollination vs. Cross-Pollination — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Self-Pollination and Cross-Pollination


Key Differences

Self-pollination is a reproductive mechanism where pollen from a flower’s own stamen is transferred to its stigma. In contrast, cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from the stamen of one flower to the stigma of another. Self-pollination ensures that a plant can reproduce without the need for external pollinators, maintaining genetic consistency. Cross-pollination, however, relies on external agents like insects, wind, or water to transfer pollen and results in greater genetic diversity among offspring.
When a plant self-pollinates, it is essentially fertilizing itself, which is advantageous in stable environments where adaptation to new conditions is not necessary. Cross-pollination, on the other hand, combines genetic material from different individuals and can lead to plants that are more resilient and better adapted to changing environments. Both self-pollination and cross-pollination have their own evolutionary advantages and play a role in the survival of plant species.
The process of self-pollination does not require the plant to invest resources in attracting pollinators, making it an energy-efficient method of reproduction. On the contrary, cross-pollination often requires plants to produce nectar and showy flowers to attract pollinators, which involves a significant investment of energy. Both strategies are crucial for the reproduction of flowering plants, but they represent a trade-off between energy conservation and genetic variability.
In terms of genetic variation, self-pollination results in offspring that are genetically similar to the parent, leading to homozygosity. Cross-pollination, in contrast, increases heterozygosity, creating offspring with a combination of traits from two different parents. Both self-pollination and cross-pollination are natural processes that contribute to the propagation of plant species, each with its own set of genetic outcomes.
Certain plants are capable of both self-pollination and cross-pollination. This dual strategy allows a plant to self-fertilize when cross-pollination is not successful or possible. While self-pollination can be seen as a backup option ensuring reproductive success, cross-pollination is typically the preferred method as it promotes genetic diversity and the potential for improved adaptability and survival.

Comparison Chart

Pollen Source

Same flower or plant
Different flower or plant

Genetic Variation

Limited; often identical to parent
Greater; combines traits of two parents

Dependence on Pollinators

Not required
Usually required

Resulting Offspring

Generally less adaptable to environmental changes
More adaptable to environmental changes

Plant Adaptations

Fewer adaptations to attract pollinators
Often has adaptations like nectar, fragrance, and colorful petals

Compare with Definitions


Inward transfer of pollen in a plant, leading to self-fertilization.
The self-pollination of the orchids ensured seed production, even in the absence of pollinators.


A genetic exchange between different plants via pollinators or wind.
Cross-pollination between different apple varieties can result in new flavors and hybrids.


The fertilization of a flower by pollen from the same flower or plant.
The pea plants in the garden underwent self-pollination, resulting in peas that were identical to the previous generation.


The transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another.
Bees assist in the cross-pollination of many plants by carrying pollen from one bloom to another.


A form of pollination that occurs within the same individual plant.
Self-pollination in wheat crops can lead to uniform grain quality.


The external fertilization process between distinct plant individuals.
The wind facilitated cross-pollination among the maize, contributing to a robust crop.


Reproductive process where pollen from one flower pollinates the same or another flower on the same plant.
Tomato plants are capable of self-pollination, which is why they're easy to grow in isolation.


Pollination involving two separate plants to enhance genetic diversity.
Cross-pollination in the rose bed created a delightful variety of colors and scents.


Autogamy, where a plant can pollinate itself without external aid.
With self-pollination, the violet flowers maintained their species' characteristics year after year.


Allogamy, requiring vectors like insects, birds, or wind for pollination.
Cross-pollination by hummingbirds often results in the evolution of plant species.


The transfer of pollen from an anther to a stigma of the same flower; autogamy.


The transfer of pollen from an anther of a flower of one plant to a stigma of a flower of another plant of the same species. Also called allogamy, xenogamy.


The transfer of pollen from an anther of one flower to a stigma of another flower on the same plant; geitonogamy.


Influence or inspiration between or among diverse elements
"Jazz is fundamentally the cross-pollination of individual musicians playing together and against each other in small groups" (Ralph de Toledano).


Pollination of a flower by its own pollen, in a flower that has both stamens and a pistil.


(botany) fertilization by the transfer of pollen from an anther of one plant to a stigma of another.


Fertilization by transfer of pollen from the anthers to the stigma of the same flower


(figurative) inspiration, stimulation, or influence between diverse elements.


Fertilization by transfer of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another.


Fertilization by transfer of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another


Stimulating influence among diverse elements;
The cross-pollination of the arts

Common Curiosities

What is cross-pollination?

It's the fertilization of a plant's stigma with pollen from a different plant.

Can self-pollination happen in all plants?

Not all; some plants have structures or mechanisms that prevent it.

What is self-pollination?

It's when a plant's pollen fertilizes its own stigma, leading to seed production.

Why is cross-pollination important for plants?

It leads to genetic diversity, which can increase adaptability and survival.

Does cross-pollination require external factors?

Yes, it often depends on wind, animals, or insects.

Are plants adapted for cross-pollination more colorful?

Often, yes, to attract pollinators like insects and birds.

How do plants benefit from self-pollination?

They can reproduce in isolation without relying on pollinators.

Are self-pollinating plants less adaptable?

They can be, as there is less genetic variation to respond to changes.

Does self-pollination have advantages?

Yes, it ensures reproduction when pollinators or other plants are absent.

Do human activities affect cross-pollination?

Yes, activities like agriculture and urban development can impact pollinator populations.

Does self-pollination contribute to genetic diversity?

No, it generally results in offspring genetically similar to the parent.

Is self-pollination more common in certain environments?

Yes, it's more common in stable environments where genetic diversity is less critical.

Can a plant that self-pollinates also cross-pollinate?

Some can, using both methods to ensure reproductive success.

Is cross-pollination more energy-intensive for plants?

Yes, it usually requires more energy to attract pollinators.

Can cross-pollination occur between different species?

Rarely, and if it does, the offspring (hybrids) may or may not be viable.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms