Strictly speaking, the glands ought to be called irritable, as the term sensitive generally implies consciousness; but no one supposes that the Sensitive-plant is conscious, and as I have found the term convenient, I shall use it without scruple. I will commence with the movements of the exterior tentacles, when indirectly excited by stimulants applied to the glands of the short tentacles on the disc. The exterior tentacles may be said in this case to be indirectly excited, because their own glands are not directly acted on. The stimulus proceeding from the glands of the disc acts on the bending part of the [page 20] exterior tentacles, near their bases, and does not (as will hereafter be proved) first travel up the pedicels to the glands, to be then reflected back to the bending place. Nevertheless, some influence does travel up to the glands, causing them to secrete more copiously, and the secretion to become acid. This latter fact is, I believe, quite new in the physiology of plants; it has indeed only recently been established that in the animal kingdom an influence can be transmitted along the nerves to glands, modifying their power of secretion, independently of the state of the blood-vessels.

The Inflection of the Exterior Tentacles from the Glands of the Disc being excited by Repeated Touches, or by Objects left in Contact with them.

The central glands of a leaf were irritated with a small stiff camel-hair brush, and in 70 m. (minutes) several of the outer tentacles were inflected; in 5 hrs. (hours) all the sub-marginal tentacles were inflected; next morning after an interval of about 22 hrs. they were fully re-expanded. In all the following cases the period is reckoned from the time of first irritation. Another leaf treated in the same manner had a few tentacles inflected in 20 m.; in 4 hrs. all the submarginal and some of the extreme marginal tentacles, as well as the edge of the leaf itself, were inflected; in 17 hrs. they had recovered their proper, expanded position. I then put a dead fly in the centre of the last-mentioned leaf, and next morning it was closely clasped; five days afterwards the leaf re-expanded, and the tentacles, with their glands surrounded by secretion, were ready to act again.

Particles of meat, dead flies, bits of paper, wood, dried moss, sponge, cinders, glass, &c., were repeatedly [page 21] placed on leaves, and these objects were well embraced in various periods from one hr. to as long as 24 hrs., and set free again, with the leaf fully re-expanded, in from one or two, to seven or even ten days, according to the nature of the object. On a leaf which had naturally caught two flies, and therefore had already closed and reopened either once or more probably twice, I put a fresh fly: in 7 hrs. it was moderately, and in 21 hrs. thoroughly well, clasped, with the edges of the leaf inflected. In two days and a half the leaf had nearly re-expanded; as the exciting object was an insect, this unusually short period of inflection was, no doubt, due to the leaf having recently been in action. Allowing this same leaf to rest for only a single day, I put on another fly, and it again closed, but now very slowly; nevertheless, in less than two days it succeeded in thoroughly clasping the fly.

When a small object is placed on the glands of the disc, on one side of a leaf, as near as possible to its circumference, the tentacles on this side are first affected, those on the opposite side much later, or, as often occurred, not at all. This was repeatedly proved by trials with bits of meat; but I will here give only the case of a minute fly, naturally caught and still alive, which I found adhering by its delicate feet to the glands on the extreme left side of the central disc. The marginal tentacles on this side closed inwards and killed the fly, and after a time the edge of the leaf on this side also became inflected, and thus remained for several days, whilst neither the tentacles nor the edge on the opposite side were in the least affected.

Insectivorous Plants Page 12

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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