The classification of grass pollen is a classic problem in palynology. One approach to this problem is to image grass pollen using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and to construct morphotypes on the basis of surface ornamentation patterns. In this paper, we construct a database of published SEM images of grass pollen surface ornamentation and use this database to review the status and utility of grass pollen morphotypes. Very little SEM data on grass pollen surface ornamentation have been collected. There are more SEM data on the pollen of species from larger subfamilies such as the Pooideae, but there are no SEM data on the pollen of relatively small subfamilies or the early-diverging APP clade of grasses. The available data support the following six morphotypes: the Hordeum-type, Triticum-type, Avena-type, Setaria-type, Pariana-type and Stipa-type. The phylogenetic distribution of these morphotypes cannot be assessed reliably with the available data, but the Pariana and Stipa types are apparently restricted to the BEP clade. We suggest that fossil grass pollen grains could be classified using these morphotypes and that this could be a means of generating useful evolutionary and palaeoecological information from the grass pollen fossil record.
Supplementary material: Our database of grass pollen surface ornamentation is available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.2134356