An insect, such as a fly, with thin integuments, through which animal matter in solution can readily pass into the surrounding dense secretion, is more efficient in causing prolonged inflection than an insect with a thick coat, such as a beetle. The inflection of the tentacles takes place indifferently in the light and darkness; and the plant is not subject to any nocturnal movement of so-called sleep.

If the glands on the disc are repeatedly touched or brushed, although no object is left on them, the marginal tentacles curve inwards. So again, if drops of various fluids, for instance of saliva or of a solution of any salt of ammonia, are placed on the central glands, the same result quickly follows, sometimes in under half an hour.

* 'Bot. Zeitung,' 1860, p. 246. [page 10]

The tentacles in the act of inflection sweep through a wide space; thus a marginal tentacle, extended in the same plane with the blade, moves through an angle of 180o; and I have seen the much reflected tentacles of a leaf which stood upright move through an angle of not less than 270o. The bending part is almost confined to a short space near the base; but a rather larger portion of the elongated exterior tentacles

FIG. 4. (Drosera rotundifolia.) Leaf (enlarged) with all the tentacles closely inflected, from immersion in a solution of phosphate of ammonia (one part to 87,500 of water.)

FIG. 5. (Drosera rotundifolia.) Leaf (enlarged) with the tentacles on one side inflected over a bit of meat placed on the disc.

becomes slightly incurved; the distal half in all cases remaining straight. The short tentacles in the centre of the disc when directly excited, do not become inflected; but they are capable of inflection if excited by a motor impulse received from other glands at a distance. Thus, if a leaf is immersed in an infusion of raw meat, or in a weak solution of ammonia (if the [page 11] solution is at all strong, the leaf is paralysed), all the exterior tentacles bend inwards (see fig. 4), excepting those near the centre, which remain upright; but these bend towards any exciting object placed on one side of the disc, as shown in fig. 5. The glands in fig. 4 may be seen to form a dark ring round the centre; and this follows from the exterior tentacles increasing in length in due proportion, as they stand nearer to the circumference.

The kind of inflection which the tentacles undergo is best shown when the gland of one of the long exterior

FIG. 6. (Drosera rotundifolia.) Diagram showing one of the exterior tentacles closely inflected; the two adjoining ones in their ordinary position.)

tentacles is in any way excited; for the surrounding ones remain unaffected. In the accompanying outline (fig. 6) we see one tentacle, on which a particle of meat had been placed, thus bent towards the centre of the leaf, with two others retaining their original position. A gland may be excited by being simply touched three or four times, or by prolonged contact with organic or inorganic objects, and various fluids. I have distinctly seen, through a lens, a tentacle beginning to bend in ten seconds, after an object had been [page 12] placed on its gland; and I have often seen strongly pronounced inflection in under one minute. It is surprising how minute a particle of any substance, such as a bit of thread or hair or splinter of glass, if placed in actual contact with the surface of a gland, suffices to cause the tentacle to bend. If the object, which has been carried by this movement to the centre, be not very small, or if it contains soluble nitrogenous matter, it acts on the central glands; and these transmit a motor impulse to the exterior tentacles, causing them to bend inwards.

Not only the tentacles, but the blade of the leaf often, but by no means always, becomes much incurved, when any strongly exciting substance or fluid is placed on the disc. Drops of milk and of a solution of nitrate of ammonia or soda are particularly apt to produce this effect. The blade is thus converted into a little cup.

Insectivorous Plants Page 08

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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